South Carolina will not have long to sit around and stew over their disappointing 86-68 loss to Manhattan on Tuesday evening, as less than 48 hours later they return to the Colonial Life Arena to square off against the USC Upstate Spartans. Coached by Eddie Payne, the Spartans are looking to add a second BCS scalp to their resume, after starting their season with a 64-63 win in Blacksburg over current ACC leaders Virginia Tech.
|The Four Factors
|When USC has the ball
|When USCU has the ball
|When USC has the ball
|When USCU has the ball
South Carolina faces an interesting contrast in styles on Thursday afternoon, as a team that refuses to shoot 3sfaces off against a team that forces its opponents to live off them. While the Gamecocks should welcome the respite of facing a USC Upstate team that doesn't force turnovers after the pressure they received at the hands of Manhattan, it seems the struggles to hit 2s may continue, which means Carolina either needs to find its outside game or make sure it can earn (and make) plenty of free throws if it wants to have a chance.
Fortunately, even if it misses a lot of its 2PAs, the Gamecocks should get to take plenty of them, given Upstate's inability (or lack of desire) to cause turnovers or grab offensive rebounds on the defensive end. While Carolina likely won't have a very pretty offense against Upstate, it could put together a very effective one if it continues to rebound and get to the line the way it has for the first six games of the season.
On the other side of the ball, Upstate plays an assist-driven offense built on ball movement. Given that they don't have many opportunities in transition because they don't turn you over too much, expect a patient offense that tries to find its scorer based on the perfect pass - they only have 23 buckets in 10 games off putbacks, so their offense will continue to work even after they grab offensive boards. It's not the slowest you'll ever see, but it's far different from some of the transition-focused teams Carolina has faced.
The Spartans bring a ton of experience with them on the short trip down I-26, and they rely heavily on it, using their bench sparsely. Torrey Craig and Ty Green both average over 30 minutes a game, and four other players average over 20 minutes a contest, leaving few other opportunities for the reserves to see action.
Craig is the leader, a 6'6" senior winger who doesn't shoot terribly efficiently but takes a ton of shots, averaging 18.3 points a contest and doing a fair bit of damage from the line (4.2 points a night come from there).
The Spartans rely on 6'2" junior Mario Blessing to bring the ball up. He doesn't shoot often, and isn't terribly adept at preventing turnovers or doling our assists. If Ty or Bruce can bother him, they could interrupt the Spartan offense before it gets going. He's joined in the backcourt by 6'3" junior Ty Greene, a scorer who's taken almost equal numbers of FTAs (38-45), 2PAs (27-58) and 3PAs (19-59) this season, giving him 14.8 points a game. Off the bench, Fred Miller has struggled to shoot throughout his career, but has posted steal rates in excess of 3 percent in his first two seasons, which makes him a defensive weapon against the turnover prone Gamecocks.
In the frontcourt, 6'8" senior Jodd Maxey handles a lot of the Spartans' rebounding and adds 8.0 points a night, while 6'8" senior Ricardo Glenn chips in 11.6 points a night, mostly through shots at the rim. The Spartans may be tempted to try 6'11" freshman Michael Buchanan inside, who thus far has hit 62.5% of his 2PAs on the season while grabbing 13.4% of offensive rebounds available to him.
For South Carolina, they continue to search for the right line-up, giving 11 players at least five minutes against Manhattan in a search for production. The backcourt combination of Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Johnson continues to bear the burden of scoring, with each posting just over 12 points a contest. While neither player fills it up from the field, both do excellent work at getting to the free throw line, where they've combined for 13 attempts per night in the early going. Johnson also hands out tons of dimes, assisting on over 30% of his teammates' baskets (99th in the nation).
Elsewhere, Carolina can't find contributors. The ever unfavored Brenton Williams has played well offensively in his limited minutes, but so far those minutes have been too limited - only eight combined in the last two outings despite strong offensive performances in three of the first four contests. Michael Carrera has gotten it together from the rebounding end again, but continues to struggle with the move to the 3, a move that Frank Martin recently said would be permanent, for understandable reasons.
In the post, Mindaugas Kacinas shoots and rebounds but can't stop both turning the ball over and defensive players in the paint. His compatriot Laimonas Chatkevicius has the same features but without the turnover bug, at least so far this season, though he's struggled to see playing time as well. Demetrius Henry continues to play strong interior defense at times (3.7% block rate), but like many of his teammates, simply can't do so consistently without fouling.
It's not a blockbuster game by any stretch, but it's certainly a chance for the Gamecocks to feel better about themselves before they head to the islands to take on a very strong St. Mary's squad (and potentially other NCAA hopefuls, including an outstanding Iowa State team). But first, they need to take care of business on their home court. Tipoff is at 4pm ET, and the game can be watched from home on Fox Sports Carolinas.