The Gamecocks won convincingly tonight against Longwood, 88-58. The independent Lancers played hard and deserve our thanks for coming out to the CLA, but they were clearly undmanned against SEC competition. Devan Downey led the 'Cocks with 18, while Antwan Carter led the Lancers with 16.
A few thoughts on the game:
- Evaldas Baniulus, among others, shot the ball from outside extremely well in the first half. Unsurprisingly, with the Lancers forced to respect the three, our offense immediately opened up. Downey was able to score and distribute more in the lane, which helped lead to a .500 night from the field for the team. Hopefully this is the beginning of a trend, as Darrin Horn has said that we will see a renewed focus on moving the ball around and taking smart shots. Doing so could solve a lot of the problems that have ailed this team, especially if players like Baniulus, who had been struggling with his shot, continue to shoot well. However, it's also hard to say how much of our our success tonight owes to playing an inferior team.
- We finally came out strong in this one. That's something that I will take as unequivocal progress, as we have struggled early against virtually every opponent we've played, including the relative pushovers.
- Sam Muldrow didn't shoot any threes, but he did pick up four offensive rebounds. That's what he needs to be doing right now. Without Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes in the lineup, Muldrow is going to have to be our guy on the boards. He can't do that as well if he's on the perimeter.
- Jhondre Jefferson also played well down low. This is the freshman who we most need to step up now in the absence of Archie and Holmes. He could be the difference maker this year. Unfortunately, unlike Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway, Jefferson has yet to contribute a whole lot in the games that matter.
That's a wrap on this one. In terms of the big picture, I really think that if we can improve our outside shooting, get improved played from Jefferson, and limit mistakes while maintaining intensity, this season is not lost. Outside of Kentucky and Ole Miss, the SEC is struggling so far this year. (Tennessee has also played very well but is staring down the unattractive prospect of losing a large portion of their team to disciplinary issues.) That means that we should have plenty of chances to win ball games, even with a depleted roster. We're probably not going to make the NCAAs unless we absolutely dominate the conference, as our OOC performance has hardly been impressive. However, an NIT berth is absolutely within reach, and considering what we've gone through so far this year, that would be success.
Next up is a trip to the Plains on Saturday afternoon. That should be a good measuring stick for this team, as Auburn is a team that we should beat but that will challenge us on the road. If we can win games like this throughout the year, we should be OK. We'll start doing open threads for this game, so come on by to chat.