Well, its finally gameday! The Georgia Bulldogs took down the Mississippi State Bulldogs last night to advance to the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals. Unfortunately, it looks as if the Gamecocks might be facing an uphill battle tonight as the Bulldogs swept the regular season series. Let's look at some keys to the game to see what the Gamecocks need to do to move on to the SEC semi-finals.
Find A Way to Stop UGA's Shooters:
To beat good shooting teams, you have to find ways to disrupt their shooters. I know, it's pretty obvious, but it's also a huge part of beating teams like UGA. Kenny Gaines and J.J. Frazier both have the capability to shoot it from deep with Yante Maten cleaning it up on the inside. With both Frazier and Gaines hitting about a 40% clip from range, it will be important to disrupt their timing. How do we do that? Well, with the aggressive man defense Frank Martin and the Gamecocks employ we will need to do a good job of fighting OVER ball screens and getting a hand up to contest shots. By fighting over ball screens it will give our defenders a chance to at least defend the pull up jump shot. Another key is for the defender of the pick man to hedge out on the ball handler and stop the ball. With the screened defender playing over the pick, you need your help defense to rotate and stop the basketball first and foremost. Find a way to disrupt UGA's timing on offense and I like our defense's chances of slowing them down.
Hit the Glass:
Rebounding, or lack of, is why we got beat at home when we last played the Bulldogs. Getting outrebounded 46-35 at home is not typically a good formula for success. Usually, the Gamecocks do a pretty good job on the glass. But Michael Carrera is usually around to contribute. With Mike (probably) out with a hip injury, it will be important for Laimonas Chatkevicius, Mindaugas Kacinas, and Chris Silva to hit the glass, and hit it hard; especially on the defensive end. If we can do a good job of disrupting the rhythm of UGA's shooters and not give Yante Maten (averaging 8 rebounds a game) and UGA second chances, we should be able to contain the Bulldogs.
Work the Ball Inside-Out:
On offense, the Gamecocks need to not fall in love with the 3 point shot. We need to get our big guys involved and do it early on. Feed the ball to #TeamLithuania, Silva, etc. and go right at their big men. The second part of that is our big men need to finish around the rim and/or get to the free throw line. If we are able to effectively execute this it will open up driving lanes for Sindarius Thornwell, PJ Dozier and that outside shot that Duane Notice loves. UGA leads the conference in defensive FG%, so if we rely on a bunch of contested 15-22 foot shots it's going to be a long night. Get the ball inside, work the paint, and the rest of the offense will open up naturally.
So what's my prediction for the game? Well I, as weird as it sounds, think that being swept in the regular season by UGA plays to our advantage. Hopefully it will provide a little extra jolt of motivation for the Gamecocks to prove some doubters wrong. I think if we execute the above three keys, which didn't happen the first two times we played UGA, then I believe we will be moving on to the SEC semi-finals. It won't be pretty. And despite the fact that UGA will make some ridiculous shots, neither team will shoot a very high percentage from the field. I expect it to be a tight game with the Gamecocks pulling away towards the end. Call it a 60-52 Gamecock victory.