What Happened: SC State

The Gamecocks closed out non-conference play on Saturday with an 80-69 win over the South Carolina State Bulldogs.  While the overall level of play was not what I would’ve hoped for heading into SEC action, the team did make some progress on a couple of issues that we’ve harped on at this site, and did so with an incredibly short bench.

Missing in action were Michael Carrera (injured) and Bruce Ellington (resting), and with the recent dismissal of LaShay Page, the Gamecocks were left with only eight healthy scholarship players, one of whom (Chatkevicius) only played four minutes.  With a short bench, the Gamecocks grabbed their tenth win of the season, matching last year’s total and setting up the possibility of post-season action in Columbia for the first time since 2009.

Team Statistics

Four Factors USC SCSU
eFG 47.9 42.6
TO% 12.0 20.7
OReb% 37.5 38.9
FTR 38.2 40.7
Possessions 72

 

Shooting USC SCSU
FTA 12-21 (57%) 17-22 (77%)
2PA 28-55 (51%) 26-54 (48%)
3PA 4-16 (25%) 0-7 (0%)
3PA% 22.5% 11.5%

It should be noted that PC and SC State are not the teams to draw too many conclusions on when they’re being used as barometers for SEC teams, but it’s a great sign that for the second game running, South Carolina turned the ball over on less than 15% of its possessions, dropping their season total to under 25% for the first time this season (which is still 328th in the country, but improving).  The Gamecocks continued to pound the offensive glass – if at a slightly lower rate than their 44.9% overall rate (second in the nation) – as well.

The big issue between this game and others was shooting, both in choice of shot selection and ability to make shots.  The Gamecocks didn’t take nearly as many 3PAs as you’d normally see them take, especially against a team like SC State that doesn’t mind letting teams shoot the ball from the outside.  Given the 51% rate from the inside (not bad by any stretch), I thought Carolina might continue to work at getting shots from the outside, but I have no real issues with the game overall on this front.

Shooting is variable, and it’ll go hot and cold on some nights, especially on 3PAs and FTAs.  Generally speaking, offensively and defensively, the thing you’re doing is determining the amount of shots a team takes (turnovers and rebounds) the types of shots they take (2PA, 3PA, or FTA), and to some extent whether or not those shots are made (mostly on 2PAs, arguably (though studies suggest otherwise) on 3PAs, and not at all on FTAs).  All you can do is create opportunities for points in those areas and hope for the best, so I’m not terribly bothered by this one game.

I was initially disappointed that, given how many shots we took inside, we didn’t create many extra chances to score from the free throw line.  After thinking that , it could be the case that one of the reasons Carolina has been taking such a high rate of free throws relative to field goals on the season is that they’ve been turning the ball over on possessions they would otherwise be taking non-contested shots.  If that’s the tradeoff we’re making, then I’m fine with that – I’d rather us be taking a lower FTA/FGA ratio if the reason is simply because we’re increasing the denominator.

I took a look at the rates in this game against our season and that’s just what I found.  The Gamecocks have been getting 0.81 FGAs per possession this season and have been getting 0.33 FTAs per possession.  In this game, the Court ‘Cocks still got about the same FTAs/possession (0.29), but the FGA/possession rose to 0.99, which means the Gamecocks were simply getting more opportunities to score than they otherwise did in earlier games.  This could also be a reason for the lower shooting, as the shots that we were getting in lieu of turnovers could be worse shots, but I’d be willing to say it’s more likely the shooting will hold up if the turnovers fall, and that’s of course a great thing for our offense.

Defensively, while you’d hope for better against the likes of State, I was happy to see that Carolina held the Bulldogs to less than a point per possession.  With only 7 guys rotating, legs had to be an issue at certain points, and you can still tell that there are some guys that have deficiencies on defense that probably won’t get corrected this season (Brenton really seems to be struggling in some areas).  It’s an effort you wish were better, but credit to State at the things they did that caused us problems.  It seemed to me there were fewer easy baskets available on the evening, and overall I’m going to try to look at this as one of our more positive efforts on this end of the floor this season.

Individual

South Carolina
Name
Min
%Ps
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Eric Smith
35
16
5
2-5
0-1
1-2
2
2
7
3
Mindaugas Kacinas
35
14
9
4-6
0-1
1-2
5
5
2
1
Lakeem Jackson
32
28
16
8-15
0-0
0-3
4
4
2
2
Damien Leonard
29
24
10
1-8
2-6
2-2
2
6
1
2
Brian Richardson
27
28
15
5-9
1-5
2-4
1
3
3
1
Brenton Williams
25
20
14
3-5
1-3
5-7
0
1
1
0
RJ Slawson
13
20
9
4-5
0-0
1-1
0
1
0
0
Laimonas Chatkevicius
4
2
1-2
0-0
0-0
1
0
0
0
Team
2
3
0
TOTAL
200
80
28-55
4-16
12-21
17
25
16
9
1.11
50.9%
25.0%
57.1%
39.5%
62.5%
50.0%
12.5%
South Carolina St.
Name
Min
%Ps
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Matthew Hezekiah
36
30
24
12-18
0-0
0-1
7
7
0
3
Louie Adams
32
24
12
2-4
0-2
8-8
0
2
2
6
Darryl Palmer
32
14
8
3-8
0-0
2-2
0
6
2
1
Khalif Toombs
32
16
6
3-8
0-2
0-0
0
2
6
1
Patrick Myers
32
22
9
3-7
0-2
3-5
4
3
2
3
Shaquille Mitchell
18
13
3
0-2
0-0
3-4
1
2
1
1
Luka Radovic
12
30
7
3-7
0-0
1-2
2
2
0
0
Phillip Henry
5
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
1
0
0
Terrance Linton
1
0
0-0
0-1
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
1
1
0
TOTAL
200
69
26-54
0-7
17-22
15
26
13
15
0.96
48.1%
0.0%
77.3%
37.5%
60.5%
50.0%
20.8%

The good news – we don’to have to see Matthew Hezekiah ever again this season.  The bad news – there are a lot of players in the SEC that can do the type of work inside that Hezekiah can do, and we’d better find someone up to the task in a hurry.

We noted in our preview the game would be interesting in that there would be limited depth on each side, though I didn’t expect Chatkevicius to only play four minutes, leaving South Carolina and State both playing seven guys a piece.  As the numbers clearly show, Hezekiah mauled us inside, effectively and efficiently using 30 percent of State’s possessions.  It’s one thing to have a guy have a good night against you, but if it gets to the point to where both you and the other guys know what’s coming and they can still hit it, you have problems.  Apparently Martin didn’t think Chatkevicius could stop the 6’11″ junior, and maybe he couldn’t have, but it’s just as obvious that no one else in garnet could, and I was surprised to see so few minutes out of Laimonas and RJ, though Slawson limited himself with four fouls.

Otherwise – and given the amount of offense Hezekiah was responsible for, this is quite an “otherwise” – the Gamecocks did a decent job on the whole preventing any of State’s players from really beating us up.  Toombs did a nice job distributing, and Palmer and Radovic each brought some decent shooting without turning the ball over, but like I indicated above, overall I thought it was one of the better defensive efforts the Gamecocks had put forward this season.

For Carolina, Eric Smith did a much better job avoiding turnovers and still handed out seven assists and made a few other useful contributions, be they his two offensive boards or his five points.  Martin sung his praises in the press conference, and this was one of Smith’s better performances, as his game really requires him avoiding the turnover to allow the rest of the offense to be successful.

Probably the two best efforts from an efficiency perspective were from the two players coming off the bench – Brenton Williams continues to light it up offensively, shooting 56% eFG, adding a 5-7 from the line, and avoiding turnovers.  RJ Slawson had an excellent 13 minutes offensively, going 4-5 from the field, though his four fouls in such limited playing time show that he was clearly no match for Hezekiah inside.

Kacinas also did a nice job, shooting 4-6 from the field and making his presence felt on the inside by grabbing five rebounds on each end.  Lakeem did a great job creating his own shot inside, and Richardson similarly did fine work creating his own offense on the interior, something he hasn’t done much of in his career thus far (as Andy Demetra indicated on Twitter, he’s already set a career-high for 2PAs in a season, and this without having even entered conference play).

Damien Leonard played big minutes for the Gamecocks, but his shooting on the inside, much like last season, left much to be desired.  It was good to see him contribute as much as he did on the glass (2 offensive and 6 defensive rebounds), but Leonard needs to figure out a way to be productive on the interior, otherwise he simply won’t be a useful enough piece of the offense.

Final Thoughts

This blog has harped on turnovers and defense for most of the season, and the Gamecocks put forth two of their better efforts in both regards, in a game that was otherwise lackluster and closer than anyone would’ve wished for.

That said, we’ll take the positives and hope to build on them as we head to Starkville this Wednesday to tip off SEC action, in a game that Carolina should be able to compete in.  While we’ve had our share of woes, the Bulldogs from Mississippi have had a wretched start to the season, with losses to Alabama A&M and Troy, and their best win probably against Texas-San Antonio.  At 5-7, State has played about as well as Carolina, but with a much tougher schedule and some bad luck in close games.

That said, Carolina hasn’t exactly lit up the world in non-conference play either, and these are two teams that will be scrambling for any wins they can grab.  No matter how good or bad anyone else thinks or says they are, one of them will start off conference play 1-0.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
This entry was posted in 2012-13 Basketball, SCSU, What Happened and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to What Happened: SC State

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