It started immediately, and never really let up.
Despite a brief period at the end of the first half where the Gamecocks struggled to score and failed to stop Clemson regularly, the Gamecocks simply had their way with the Tigers on Friday night, punctuating the win with a dominant 40-15 second half effort that showed anyone paying attention that the balance of power in basketball has clearly shifted to Columbia in the state of South Carolina.
The 68-45 win is the first over Clemson for Frank Martin. Looking at the trajectory of the two programs and the results on the floor on Friday night, it won't be his last.
|Advanced Box Score|
|PPP = Points per poss.|
|Non-TO = PPP on non-turnover poss.|
|eFG = (2PM+(1.5*3PM))/FGA|
|FTR = FTA/FGA|
|3PA% = 3PA/FGA|
Three Thoughts on the Team Stats
1. The defense won the game. The offense didn't play poorly, running up just over a point per possession. But the defense is why the Gamecocks dominated this game. The Gamecocks didn't let Clemson make 2s, holding them to 33% from two.
The problem for the Tigers was that they're not the kind of team that can batter you from the outside - they shoot less than 29% from three on the year - and Carolina wasn't willing to let them do it anyway. Duane Notice, Sindarius Thornwell, and Tyrone Johnson picked up their men well beyond the arc for most of the evening, and simply didn't allow Rod Hall and Clemson to get into their offense. For a stretch of the first half, Jaron Blossomgame and his cohorts got to the rim a time or two, but for most of the evening, Carolina simply stopped the Tiger offense dead in its tracks.
2. Once you've done all that right, don't get beat elsewhere. All of that is amazing, but you can't stop there - you have to make sure you don't give up a ton of offensive rebounds, or fail to create turnovers, or create a parade to the free throw line. Carolina excelled in all three areas - they allowed a lower offensive rebounding rate and free throw rate than the average NCAA team does, and forced a higher turnover rate.
If you're not shooting well, and you're not getting additional shots, and you're not getting to the line, you're going to have a bad time. And Clemson had a very, very bad time against the Gamecocks.
3. The offense wasn't special, but it was just fine. Some fans have wondered how this team wins while Thornwell seems to be struggling, and the simple answer is because we don't need Thornwell (or anyone, really) to be great on offense. Just keep chugging out a point a possession or so, and Carolina's going to beat most teams. Obviously, that's going to require a better effort than the one they had on Friday night against better defenses that they'll see as they move into conference play, but with the defense playing at the level its at right now, the offense doesn't need to be great for this team to be pretty damn good.
And frankly, it wasn't. They were about average in every aspect, though they shot a little better than a typical team thanks to a 57% effort on two-point attempts. But again, the night was about the defense in every way. If USC plays that tough against everyone left on its schedule, they won't need much offense to win a lot of games.
Three Thoughts on the Individual Stats
1. Raise your hand if you thought Duane Notice would lead this team in scoring. He's found his home off the ball, stroking five three-point buckets to finish with 19 points on the evening. Laimonas Chatkevicius continued his fine form under the rim, and the rest of the team just contributed, with everyone allowing the offense to work. Again, it's a bit concerning as to how this team might handle a very strong defense, but for now, it's working.
2. That's pretty, Ty Johnson. There's been some concern (along with that over Thornwell) about how Johnson's played of late, but nine assists is just a beautiful evening's worth of work. Ten of the 23 baskets that Carolina scored had Johnson involved on either the pass or the shot, and he only played 27 minutes (i.e., about six of those baskets were scored when he wasn't even on the court). That's a great night.
3. Rod Hall is good, but he wasn't on Friday. Rod Hall had a great game against South Carolina last year in Litteljohn, but he had nothing going for him this year, as Duane Notice and company just shut him down, holding him to just two points on 1-8 shooting to go with three assists against five turnovers.
Clemson doesn't really sing on offense anyway, so when you shut down their best creator, you've really shut them down. Sure, Blossomgame and Damarcus Harrison got a few points along the way, but the Clemson offense never really got into rhythm.
Just an outstanding performance by Carolina. With the win over Coker, they've got one more gimme game to come (NC A&T on December 30), and then the meat of the schedule comes - 18 SEC games, but before that, a neutral site match-up with Iowa State.