The Gamecocks opened SEC play with a 68-56 win over Auburn. The Tigers played us tough during the first half, but we built a commanding lead early in the second to put the game out of reach. Zam Fredrick led all scorers with 27 points. DeWayne Reed had 21 for the Tigers. Devan Downey had a bit of an off-night, scoring less than 10 points for the first time this season. Downey did lend a hand in a solid defensive effort by tallying three steals.
There's a lot to like about this victory. First of all, a double-digit win margin is always a good thing in conference play. Second of all, we played a great game defensively, forcing 24 turnovers and holding the Tigers to only 56 points. Finally, we responded well when Auburn forced us out of our comfort zone. Auburn's strategy, as usual under Jeff Lebo, was to slow the game down and beat us with efficient half-court play. While Darrin Horn prefers a full-court style, our guys played great half-court defense when Auburn forced us to slow down. We also played an efficient game offensively, shooting a solid 46% from the field.
All of that said, Auburn is not one of the better teams in the SEC, so we shouldn't get too giddy about this win. Our next two games, which are at LSU and at Tennessee, will be much tougher. The Tigers and especially the Vols are significantly better than Auburn and it's always tough to win on the road. Additionally, both teams present front-court matchup problems that we'll have to contend with. However, neither game is unwinnable; the Tigers lost today to an average Alabama team, and the Vols, while likely the best team in the SEC, aren't as strong this year as they were last year. Moreover, we've proven that we can beat good teams on the road by winning at Baylor. If we can split these two road games, I'll be happy.