South Carolina rebounds the ball well offensively. If there's been one constant in the Frank Martin era, it's been that. Everything else waxes and wanes at times, but we rebound our own misses well.
Last night, we did just that. And pretty much nothing else went right.
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Auburn relied mostly on exactly who you expected them to rely on - Chris Denson (8-11 from the field for 22 points) and K.T. Harrell (11 points on just 2-8 shooting). But Carolina's inability to guard in the post reared its head again, as Allen Payne played one of the best games of his career, scoring 15 points - one shy of his season high - on 5-6 shooting from the field to go along with five steals.
Without the ability to stop Auburn when it shot, Carolina was left to try to limit those shots. It did do a nice job on the defensive glass, holding Auburn to grabbing just 5 of their misses. But 11 turnovers meant that the Tigers got too many shots generally, and especially from the free throw line - the Gamecocks once again set up an express lane for the opponent to get easy points, although the 25-19 point advantage from there wasn't its undoing.
Rather, the Gamecocks came apart due to their inability to protect the basketball. Without Duane Notice in the starting line-up, Frank Martin chose to rely on Sindarius Thornwell to bring the basketball up for large stretches of the evening. The move seemed to knock Thornwell off his stride, as he went just 2-9 shooting and only handed out one assist against five turnovers. Martin seems frustrated by the fact the injury to Tyrone Johnson requires him to rely on Duane Notice, but that reality doesn't change just by not playing Notice. And given that it led to Thornwell playing ineffectively, benching Notice harmed Carolina at two positions, not one.
Perhaps the brightest spot of the evening was Mindaugas Kacinas seeing extended minutes and producing, playing 21 minutes and going 2-3 from the field along with a 6-6 effort from the free throw line. Kacinas also grabbed 3 offensive rebounds, and although he turned the ball over 3 times, it still meant he was handling the ball and trying to involve himself in the offense. The 23% of possessions he used while on the court was the biggest number for him since the St. Mary's game, and 23% isn't exactly a ton of possessions.
Carolina gets two days to figure out how to re-gain its desire to come out and compete, and they'll need it. The next two games bring Kentucky and Florida to town, easily the two best teams in the conference and the only two assured to head to the NCAA tournament at this point. Carolina seems unlikely to win either game, but each match-up affords the Gamecocks a chance to measure themselves against programs they want to become. It'll be interesting to see how they respond.