Auburn won a close game against the Gamecocks this afternoon in Columbia, 74-71. The game was back-and-forth throughout, and much like against Mississippi St., USC didn't make the plays it needed to in the final minutes. Bruce Ellington led Carolina with 18 points, while Damien Leonard continued to show improvement with a 17-point, nine-board effort. Auburn star Frankie Sullivan led the Tigers with 17.
The Gamecocks did some things well in this game. USC was +2 in turnovers and dominated the offensive glass (Leonard is really making a huge difference on the glass, which I would have never expected before the season), which in part led to us taking 57 FGA to Auburn's 41. USC did a decent job offensively in most respects, shooting 46% from the floor and 40% from three. The main problem in the game was that USC allowed Auburn to shoot 58.5% from the floor, and the Tigers also shot 28 FTs to our 16. Obviously, you won't win many games with those kinds of numbers. We've given up ugly shooting percentages in the past, but oftentimes, it's because of turnovers. This time, it was poor defense. Auburn is a good offensive team with some excellent shooters, and USC didn't play them tightly enough on the perimeter, leading to a good shooting day for Auburn. USC also struggled with Auburn's big men, who were usually good for two or a trip to the stripe when Auburn went to them. Auburn center and Gamecocks kryptonite Rob Chubb was 8-9 from the stripe.
This is a game where I think you can easily see that this team simply lacks the personnel it needs to compete at the highest levels. We played an all-around solid game, but we weren't good enough to handle a surging Auburn team. Although part of our problem was definitely poor defense from the guards, our lack of inside presence really stuck out to me. It seemed like we weren't as aggressive in perimeter defense as we might have been because we don't trust our interior defense to handle Auburn's driving guards. Against a good shooting team like Auburn, you really have to be able to trust your interior to do well in that regard, but we just don't have the right guys on the roster right now. A Damontre Harris would have really helped. Alas, we don't have any guys like that, so for now, we're going to have to hope for some combinations of flawless performances on our part and down shooting games on our opponents' parts. That didn't happen today, which is why we lost.