Credit goes to the Rebels for playing the Gamecocks tough throughout the first half, but in the end Carolina took a relatively easy victory over Ole Miss on the strength of a 26-5 run that went for most of the first part of the second half. Devan Downey lead Carolina with 22 points, while Rebels star David Huertas led all scorers with 25.
As expected, this wasn't a very difficult game for Carolina. Ole Miss has been ravaged by injuries and lacks a scoring threat other than Huertas. As the Rebels lack a threat in the low post, they were unable to exploit our major defensive weakness. Their only hope in this game was to put the ball in Huertas's hands and hope that he might catch fire, and while Huertas got his points, his 8-18 / 3-11 percentage line didn't help Ole Miss, especially the 3-11 from beyond the arc. Carolina, on the other hand, played a decent, although not great, game offensively, with both Downey and Dominique Archie in double figures and the other starters with nine points apiece. We also continued to get lots of second-chance shots due to offensive rebounds, something we'll need to continue doing against tougher competition. The one dismaying point about this game is that we shot under 40% from the charity stripe, with Mike Holmes shooting 1-7 from the line. That's a percentage that even Shaq could laugh at. We've got to do a better job from the line, as close games--the kind of games we'll have to play in against tougher opponents than Ole Miss--often come down to which team made its free throws and which didn't.
All in all, though, it was good to see the Gamecocks get a commanding win against an SEC opponent. We're now 14-4 overall and 3-2 in conference, and we should begin getting more attention from the pollsters and the bracketologists this week. We have to keep winning if we want to make the tourney, though, as we'll likely need to go at least 9-7 with one win in the SEC tournemant to be on the right side of the bubble. We might even need to go 10-6, considering how down the SEC is and how little our non-con wins did to bolster our RPI. Our next game is at home against a reeling Vanderbilt team. That's a game we should win; Vandy lacks the shooters they've had in the past, and their star center A. J. Ogilvy has been hurt of late. I'll say more about the game tomorrow, but suffice it to say that this is a must-win game. If we win, we go to 4-2 in conference before we head to Gainesville and Lexington for games that we will likely lose. If we come out of that road trip at 4-4, we will be fine. If we come out at 3-5, we've got problems with having to dig ourselves out of a deep hole. We need to win against Vandy.