With a game against fellow cellar-dweller Miss. St. to open the SECT, the Gamecocks had a good chance tonight to extend their season. Alas, it wasn't to be, and the Gamecocks lost 70-59. Give credit to the Bulldogs; they improved tremendously in the last quarter of the season, and they put on a solid offensive and defensive performance tonight against the Gamecocks.
The key to Miss. St.'s success was its defense, a mix of zone and opportune trapping. The Bulldogs forced 17 turnovers and scored numerous easy baskets in transition, and the zone kept Brenton Williams from having the success attacking the basket he had when we played Miss. St. a couple of weeks ago. The Gamecocks never figured MSU out this time and played tight the entire game. Miss. St. forced us to take a ton of threes--we attempted 31 threes to seven free throws--and we never got them to start falling.
Carolina will also be wondering if the game might have been different if Michael Carrera hadn't been forced to leave the game after taking a nasty elbow to the face. Carrera, to that point, was making an excellent contribution on both offense and defense.
Truth be told, though, it's probably for the best that the season is over. This team likely wasn't going to do anything tomorrow against a Tennessee team that is motivated by being on the bubble. The key for this program is to move past this forgettable season and to start over with some new talent. Be on the lookout in the next few weeks for news regarding which players are staying and which leaving as the coaches make their roster decisions. Then, we can hope for some recruiting magic from Martin.
One guy to be on the watch for right now is Brandon, FL forward Demetrius Henry, who will be visiting Columbia soon. Henry has named Carolina, South Florida, and Miami as his leaders. Henry would make a nice front-court complement to Carrera and is precisely the kind of player we need to bolster this class, which already includes excellent guards in Marcus Stroman and Sindarius Thornwell, from good to excellent.