A golden opportunity wasted: despite being in good position to challenge for the win late in the game, the Gamecocks let the Tennessee Volunteers run away down the stretch to a 63-55 victory. Respect is due the Vols, who played a gutsy fourth quarter in a venue that had been a nightmare for many other talented teams. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, crumbled down the stretch. Brandis Raley-Ross led the 'Cocks with 16, while Bobby Maze led a balanced Vols attack with 14.
A few thoughts on the game:
- When playing Tennessee, who has been our worst nightmare over the past few seasons, it's absolutely necessary to play a nearly mistake-free game to win. We did that for most of the afternoon, offsetting our inferior athleticism and shooting by protecting the ball, producing turnovers, and working the offensive boards. Late in the game, though, we fell apart, committing costly and foolish turnovers and fouls that killed our chance to stay with the Vols. Discipline, people, discipline.
- Our offense is at times playing absolutely atrociously, particularly at critical points in the second half. Other than the Florida game, this has been more or less true the past few weeks. Part of the problem is that Devan Downey is struggling. His ankle seems to be inhibiting his mobility, and his shots aren't falling. The other part of the problem is that we lack effective ball movement, drives into the lane, and post presence. We've basically committed to shooting the three, and the shots aren't falling. That's no way to win games, even when you have decent shooters. Unfortunately, I'm not really sure what the answer is here; we lack the roster to do much else right now. If Ramon Galloway, Evaldas Baniulus, or Stephen Spinella could get their shots going, we might be able to win some games, but that's not happening right now.
- This was a golden opportunity to get a statement win that would bolster our RPI come selection time. And no, I don't mean NCAAs selection. I mean NIT selection. We desperately need some wins right now to make sure that we get a chance to play in the postseason. The upcoming games home against the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Mississippi St. Bulldogs are must-win games for us to get there, as the games at the Vanderbilt Commodores and Kentucky Wildcats are extreme longshots considering how well those two teams are playing and the way we play on the road.
- Regarding the NIT, I wouldn't be disappointed if that's where we end up. We knew this year was going to be a tough haul after losing Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, and although the Kentucky win may have given us hope that we might band together and make a Cinderella story, we have always been a decent-but-not-good team this year, an NIT team. In other words, if we make it to the NIT, we'll have about done what I thought we would, which would, at the very least, be a minor success and another step forward for the program. However, if we don't make it--and that's a distinct possibility at this point--then I will consider this season a failure. No other way around it; when you look back at some of the games we've lost this year, particularly against the Wofford Terriers, Georgia Bulldogs, and now Tennessee, you see that we've had our chances and have failed to do what we needed to do. And no, the CBI is not success. We're not great, but we're better than that.
That's a wrap. Next up: at Kentucky. All I have to say is that it's not going to be pretty. I hate to be a pessimist, but that game is looking like a horror show right now.