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Gamecock Basketball: Carolina foul in 86-68 loss to Jaspers

South Carolina could not keep the Jaspers away from the foul line, which left them at the mercy of the Jaspers' excellent free throw shooting in a disheartening 16-point loss to the MAAC favorites.

Sindarius Thornwell contributed 17 points, but they weren't nearly enough to beat Manhattan on Tuesday.
Sindarius Thornwell contributed 17 points, but they weren't nearly enough to beat Manhattan on Tuesday.
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

What made it hurt the most is that you could see it all coming if you looked hard enough.

The Gamecock defense entered the game posting a 55.4% free throw rate, good for 322nd in the nation (free throw rate is measured by FTA/FGA, which basically shows how successfully a team gets to the foul line, controlled for offensive opportunities).  Manhattan came in with a 59.5% FTR on offense, good for fifth in the nation.

You can't defend teams when they're on the line, and a team that came into the game hitting less than 70% of their free throws knocked down 87% (34 of 39), while South Carolina hit 58% (22 of 38).  That twelve-point differential represented all but one of the 13-point differential between the teams until the under four media timeout, when Frank Martin pulled the starters, and the Gamecocks finished up 86-68 losers against the MAAC favorites.

Advanced Box Score
Manhattan USC
23-49 FG 22-52
6-13 3P 2-7
34-39 FT 22-38
12 OREB 12
21 DREB 15
16 TO 16
73 POSS 73
Four Factors
53.06% eFG 44.23%
21.98% TO 21.98%
44.44% OReb 36.36%
79.59% FTR 73.08%
47.22% 2P% 44.44%
46.15% 3P% 28.57%
26.53% 3PA% 13.46%
87.18% FT% 57.89%
86 Score 68
1.182 PPP 0.934
1.514 Non-TO: 1.197

South Carolina did not play very well on either side of the ball, but the 1.514 points on non-turnover possessions sticks out like a sore thumb in that advanced box score.  If South Carolina didn't get a turnover, they simply weren't able to stop the Jaspers defensively, resorting to 23 total fouls, almost all of which conceded free throws to Manhattan.

This inflates the rest of the defense's numbers - the 47% on 2PAs (the shooting percentage your defense controls the most) isn't that bad until you remember that it only exists because South Carolina had to foul to stop a ton of opposing shots.  South Carolina did do a good job of forcing the Jaspers into 16 turnovers, but otherwise this is a brutal performance - dominated on the interior both in their inability to avoid fouls and to keep Manhattan off the offensive glass (that 44.4% offensive rebounding percentage is simply not good enough).

The Gamecocks weren't very good on offense either.  The 44% shooting from 2P isn't horrid, but they don't compliment it otherwise - they didn't take or make many three-point shots, and shot woefully from the free throw line.  Now to their credit, getting to the line is a skill, and they did an excellent job of getting opportunities for easy points (that's a pretty great 73.1% FTR), but you have to hit them.

Individually, Sindarius Thornwell led the way with 17 points built mostly on 10-13 shooting from the line (he was 3-9 from the field), and the entire team did a nice job of finding easy baskets at times (15 of 22 FGAs were assisted).  But for long spurts the half-court offense simply didn't look coherent, and it comes as little surprise to anyone who watched that almost a third (22 of 68) of Carolina's points came from the line.

Otherwise, no one really played particularly well or terribly poorly.  Most disappointing remain the guys you know can contribute more - Michael Carrera was invisible in three first-half minutes before ultimately adding three offensive rebounds and 10 points in the second half.  Brenton Williams wasn't able to make an impact in his six minutes on the floor, going 0-1 from the field with an assist, a turnover, and little else.

In the end, South Carolina isn't good enough offensively to play this way - they have to make more shots from inside and the free throw line if they're going to continue to not take three-point shots (only 13.5% of their shots tonight were from outside - coming into the night they took 24.6% of shots from beyond the arc against a national average of 32.5%).  A team that can't hit over 45% of their shots from 2PA can't be that reliant on those shots and expect to be worth half a damn.

It's a disappointing loss to a pretty good basketball team, made more upsetting because it puts a massive dent in whatever postseason hopes you had for this team.  South Carolina has a very quick turnaround against a decent, if not great, USC Upstate team that opened its season with a win over Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.  They need to answer the bell in that contest so they can head off to meet a very good St. Mary's team in Hawaii on the upswing.  Otherwise, this season runs the risk of getting away from South Carolina before it ever really gets started.