It's been a fun ride, but Darrin Horn's at times magical first season is now over after a 70-63 loss to Davidson. Stephen Curry lived up to his reputation with 32 points, while Devan Downey led South Carolina with 18. In their last games as Gamecocks, Zam Fredrick scored 10, while Branden Conrad scored 2 and lent a hand on defense.
What went wrong tonight? While the ESPN and other major media reviews will give Curry the credit for the win, I attribute the loss to other reasons. Curry didn't cause us to miss easy free throws. Curry didn't score all of the easy Davidson transition baskets. It wasn't always Curry that got easy dunks and layups under the basket when our zone fell asleep. Overall, this was an example of poor execution by Carolina. Horn's defensive game plan--which featured a press most of the night and a zone defense to prohibit Curry from breaking open off screens too much--wasn't a bad one. While we've given up easy scores in transition all year long, you would think we could have kept up with a less athletic Davidson team. We didn't. You also would think that we wouldn't leave guys wide open under the basket while playing a 2-3 zone. We did. As far as the offense goes, I thought we got some good looks throughout the night, but we missed some easy shots and shot a paltry 20% from downtown. Luckily, we kept it close by shooting well at the line. I'm not sure why we shot so poorly. Guess it just wasn't our night.
A few more points.
- While Curry isn't the only or even main reason we lost, I'll have to admit that you don't see many shooters like this guy. He shoots threes like they're free throws, sometimes from way past the three-point line. If it wasn't for his poor passing and transition play, I would say he's a sure-fire lottery pick.
- I'm not sure if I think he should have been the one to guard Curry, but Conrad played his heart out defensively. You could tell he wanted to make what turned out to be his last game a special one. It's too bad that he was injured this year and couldn't help out off the bench.
- This was an oddly officiated game. The refs let the two teams beat each other up in the first half and then proceed to call it rather tightly in the second. Davidson had 24 PFs and USC had 27. Yikes!
I'll have more to say in the coming weeks about how I judge this season, but I still want to stress that I think this season has been a success for Darrin Horn and his Gamecocks. We won more than we should have and, with lots of experienced returning players, there's hope and excitement for the future. The goal for the players now is to hone their skills over the offseason. For Horn, it's time to get out there and recruit. We've probably signed all we're going to for this year (including some players that can contribute immediately), but Coach needs to get out there and capitalize off the program's new found visibility by signing some players that can help us play with the big boys on a consistent basis.
Also, I'd like to thank everyone that has contributed to our discussions in the game threads and elsewhere. I've enjoyed blogging about USC hoops this year and look forward to doing so again next season.