Going into this game, I was afraid we might get complacent and suffer a let down after all the drama of the last few weeks. Luckily, our guys turned in a great performance until the very end of the game, and by then the outcome was beyond doubt. Carolina defeated the Dawgs 79-68, a score that's closer than the game really was, as we led by around 20 for most of the game before UGA scored a few points late. Sam Muldrow led the Gamecocks with 18 on 7-9 shooting, while UGA's fine guard Terrance Woodbury scored 20 to lead all scorers. I'd like to give the Dawgs credit (yes, it's hard for me to do so) for showing some fight in this game. If not for a slow start on their part and tremendous shooting from us early in the game, the outcome might have been different. But it wasn't meant to be for our enemies from across the border; we came ready to play for the sellout crowd and made a statement for ourselves.
We saw a few good things today. For one, we shot over 73% from the line. Considering that we seem to have mental issues at the line, it's one thing to shoot FTs well during a blowout and one thing to do it well during a tight game. However, it was good to see us shoot better--let's hope that this game came at the right time and we go forth with confidence into the stretch run. I also thought our half-court offense looked great at points. We moved the ball and took the right shots, and that led to a strong FG% for most of the game. We have shooters and when they get open, they make shots. They did that tonight.
On the negative side, we gave up a few too many TOs that led to easy baskets for the Dawgs. That killed us against the Gators in Gainesville, as it will against other elite teams that don't hail from Athens, GA. I also would have liked to see us finish better; a 20-point win looks better than an 11-point win. But I'm getting picky; we played well, and there's not much to be sad about right now.
Of note in the bigger picture is that Tennessee lost at Auburn today after Korvotney Barber made a late layup for the Tigers. That means that we are now alone in second place in the East, only a half game behind the Gators. A strong stretch run gives us a real possibility of winning the East or at least getting a first-round bye in the SEC Tourney. That would be huge for our chances at an SEC Tourney Title, which is a realistic goal at this point. In terms of our NCAAs chances, we're now at 6-3 in league play and need four more victories to get to the all-important 10 SEC wins. If we can do that, especially if we can also win a game in the tourney, we're in the Big Dance. At this point, I'd say it's not a question of whether that happens or not, but whether we can get 11 or 12 wins and a favorable seed. Hang on for the ride, folks.
Also of note: College of Charleston is challenging Davidson on ESPN2 right now. A Cougs win would go a long ways towards erasing the taint of our loss to C of C in the media's mind, so let's pull for C of C to win it tonight. Not only will it be good for the Gamecocks, but regular poster Charlestowne will appreciate it.
Also, thanks to those that showed up for the Open Thread. It's good to see folks getting as excited about Carolina hoops as they were about football. You know, because you should. This basketball team is everything we wish the football team might be next year.