South Carolina escaped Tulsa on Monday night to win the Paradise Jam and grab their second impressive out-of-conference victory of the season, wins that given their neutral-court status will carry more weight with the NCAA Tournament Committee at the end of the season. They did it the way most good basketball teams win - they shot better.
|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|
1. Shooting wins games. These teams took the same number of field goals, and Tulsa actually got three more opportunities at the free throw line. In a game like that - when rebounds, turnovers, and free throw attempts come out basically even - the game turns on who makes shots. Carolina drained one more 2 and two more 3s, and that's the difference between winning and losing.
Both teams went 50% from inside the arc, so the difference came in the Gamecocks making two extra 3s despite taking two fewer shots from long range. For an eight-point game, which can sometimes show that one team really outplayed the other, this was about as close as it gets.
2. The starters showed up. Every starter hit double digits except for PJ Dozier, who shouldn't hang his head for an eight-point effort. Kacinas, Carrera, and Chatkevicius all did banner work in the post, combining to go 13-21 inside the arch, a surprising 3-5 beyond the arc, and 9-12 from the free throw line. In a game this close, that combined effort separated the Gamecocks from their opponents.
The three major guards - Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, and Dozier - also all played nice games. Thornwell had 16 points and an impressive five steals on the defensive end, which took his above-average offensive game and made it an excellent all-around effort. Notice struggled a bit by going just 2-9 from the field, but got to the line and made shots there (7-10 at the stripe). Dozier played his role, notching four assists against two turnovers, and wasn't afraid to go take shots when required.
That's an excellent six-man rotation the Gamecocks rolled out, and the kind that deserved to win against another potential NCAA team.
3. The bench needs to get better. South Carolina rolled out four other players not mentioned above, none of whom impressed. Stroman had one assist and three turnovers in his 19 minutes and continued to shy away from shooting, taking just one two-point attempt (he made it) and not getting to the line. His inability to create any offense for himself - even within the system - places more weight on the rest of the team.
Cobb and Silva combined for just two points in 15 minutes (scored by Cobb) to go with four turnovers and seven fouls. Neither looked like they belonged on the court and the Gamecocks should be concerned if they need their depth in a tight game, at least for now, because these efforts won't get it done for extended stretches.
Lastly, Justin McKie played just two minutes and didn't record a stat. While it's hard to fault him for not filling up the scoresheet in such limited action, Carolina could certainly use another guard/wing type player to step into a bigger role, and McKie (or Blanton, or someone else) needs to seize the chance.