Gamecocks finally get it right, beat Ole Miss 63-62

Well that was unexpected.  The Ole Miss Rebels came into Columbia trying to solidify their hold on an NCAA tournament birth.  Instead, they were sent back to Oxford searching for answers (that likely aren’t going to be found inside the steel doors within the Colonial Life Arena) as the Gamecocks rallied from a late deficit to grab their first victory in three weeks.

In our preview, we talked about the possibility that Carolina might win, but that it would require a few breaks and Carolina showing vast improvement in certain areas.  While they didn’t get everything right, the Gamecocks did just enough to overcome their flaws and steal a victory over a pretty darn good Ole Miss team.  The win moves the Gamecocks into a tie for 12th place in the 14-team SEC, and leaves intact the small but real possibility that Carolina can finish the regular season with a wining record.

Team

USC MISS
eFG 46.1 43.8
TO% 15.5 18.6
Oreb% 34.9 37.5
FTR 12.3 14.1
Pace 65

Coming into the game, we noted that the main concern with Ole Miss would be keeping them from scoring effectively inside, and then finding a way to keep them off the foul line.  One of the big advantages that came out of the game for us last night was how it was officiated – there were only 27 fouls called between the two teams, which severely limited FT chances.  Given the way we play offense and defense, that was a significant advantage for us, especially given the Rebels’ ability and propensity for getting to the line.

More importantly, while avoiding fouls, the Gamecocks avoided getting dominated on the interior.  Ole Miss only shot 40 percent from 2PA over the evening, and while Carolina should take no pride in their own 39 percent effort from within the arc, our issues this year have primarily come from teams running up a massive advantage on us in 2P%.  Through our defense, we stopped that from happening last evening, which left us with a chance to win.

The other thing we needed to do was find a way to not get run out of the gym through a turnover disparity, especially given the paucity of Ole Miss turnovers normally available.  Carolina got that done more through its offense – while the 18.5 percent turnover rate posted by the Rebels is pretty weak by their inflated standards, the Gamecock offense was able to avoid turning the ball over itself.

As with the rest of the game, we matched Ole Miss on the boards as well.  While that’s a place we pressed an advantage against teams in the early going, we simply haven’t been able to do that as much since SEC play began.  Overall, these two teams matched each other in almost every team statistic we look at.  When you see that, it’s hardly shocking that the game was decided by just one point.

Individual

Mississippi
Name
Min
%Ps
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Marshall Henderson
35
23
11
1-6
3-11
0-0
0
4
2
1
Murphy Holloway
31
32
19
7-13
0-0
5-7
4
9
1
2
Nick Williams
26
10
5
1-3
1-1
0-0
0
4
2
1
Derrick Millinghaus
24
29
11
1-5
3-8
0-0
1
3
1
2
Reginald Buckner
22
17
7
3-5
0-0
1-2
2
3
0
1
Terry Brutus
23
7
4
2-3
0-0
0-0
1
3
0
0
Jarvis Summers
16
17
0
0-2
0-1
0-0
0
0
3
2
Ladarius White
16
27
5
1-2
1-3
0-0
0
1
2
3
Anthony Perez
7
0
0-1
0-0
0-0
1
1
0
0
Team
6
0
0
TOTAL
200
62
16-40
8-24
6-9
15
28
11
12
0.95
40.0%
33.3%
66.7%
37.5%
65.1%
45.8%
18.5%
South Carolina
Name
Min
%Ps
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Bruce Ellington
36
22
9
3-9
1-5
0-0
0
1
3
2
Eric Smith
34
17
12
3-5
2-4
0-1
0
3
5
1
Michael Carrera
27
32
13
6-12
0-0
1-2
8
5
1
2
Lakeem Jackson
25
22
4
1-6
0-0
2-4
3
2
3
2
Laimonas Chatkevicius
25
19
7
2-6
1-1
0-0
2
5
0
2
Brian Richardson
25
16
6
0-3
2-4
0-0
0
2
2
1
Brenton Williams
18
22
8
1-3
2-5
0-1
0
3
1
0
RJ Slawson
10
11
4
2-2
0-0
0-0
0
3
0
0
Team
2
1
0
TOTAL
200
63
18-46
8-19
3-8
15
25
15
10
0.97
39.1%
42.1%
37.5%
34.9%
62.5%
57.7%
15.4%

The game plan coming in was to focus on three Rebels – preventing Buckner or Holloway from going off inside, and making sure that Marshall Henderson didn’t go off from outside.  While we weren’t perfect in any of these areas, Carolina largely avoided letting any of these guys determine who would win or lose, which gave them just enough breathing room to come out ahead.

Holloway obviously had the biggest night for Mississippi, going 7-13 from 2PA and adding another five points on seven FTAs.  That’s not great, but it can be overcome if you rein in the rest of the guys on the court.  Carolina didn’t really stop Buckner so much as they kept him from starting, limiting him to only using 17 percent of the Rebels’ possessions in his 22 minutes before fouling out.

And Smith did a damn fine job of making Marshall Henderson work.  As much as we’ve harped on the idea that there’s really no such thing as 3-point defense, it’s an over-statement at its core, especially with a guy like Henderson, who’s going to take double-digit shots from outside no matter how you play him, which means the defense has to find a way to make those shots as difficult as possible.  Typically, teams don’t take 3s they shouldn’t just because it’s bad strategy.  Once that assumption breaks down – as it seems to with Henderson – then it’s reasonable to say you can stop someone from the exterior.  Basically, Henderson changes the normal math, which is that you play 3P defense by stopping 3PAs from occurring.  But if there’s a guy who’ll shoot them anyway, then yes, you’re in effect able to play 3P% defense.

Credit Eric Smith for making Henderson’s life difficult, which may not have been the entire factor in his 3-11 outside shooting, but damn sure didn’t hurt.  Smith had one of his best nights as a Gamecock, scoring 17 points on efficient shooting while dishing out five assists and only turning the ball over once.  I know Frank loves Bruce, but we need to figure out a way to get him to shoot a little less and let guys like Smith find better shots when they’re available.  This is the sort of game I want to see Bruce play.  Well done to Smith.

Carrera showed what we suspected – the Alabama game was a one-off, and he’ll be fine.  He took the Gamecock offense and put it on his back, going 6-12 from the field and 1-2 from the line, and grabbing 8 offensive rebounds while only turning the ball over twice.  That’s outstanding for 27 minutes of work.

Carolina also benefited from their three bench players coming in and making meaningful contributions.  Brenton Williams went 3-8 from the field to contribute eight points while avoiding turnovers in 18 minutes.  Brian Richardson’s 25 minutes saw him go just 2-7, but his makes were from 3, and he continues to do an excellent job of finding and taking (though on this night, not making) 2PAs he can make.  Though he could certainly improve on his 41 percent hit-rate from 2PA, the ability and commitment to taking the ball inside allows him to get open 3PA attempts.  Lastly, RJ Slawson played an excellent 10 minutes on the offensive end, hitting two shots without turning the ball over, and grabbing three defensive rebounds to boot.

One interesting note about our bench was the fact that Damien Leonard and Mindaugus Kacinas never left it over the course of the game.  I continue to have no understanding of how Frank Martin allocates minutes, but to the extent you’re still trying to figure out who’s favored and who isn’t going into the off-season, this game created more questions than answers, at least from my perspective.

Up Next

If you’re looking for a preview of the Georgia game, just go back to our most recent preview and review of the Bulldogs from a few weeks ago.  Hopefully, the Bulldogs will be tired from returning from their Thursday night game in Fayetteville.

The last time we saw Georgia, we were their third consecutive win on the way to a five game win streak that ultimately ended with a 52-45 loss in Athens to Alabama.  The Bulldogs followed that up with a heartbreaking overtime loss to Ole Miss, in a game they seemed to have in hand for a large portion of the second half.

The team hasn’t changed much so I’m going to let the earlier preview serve as the preview for this game as well.  As stated in that earlier preview and as is evident from a read of the review of that game, the key for Carolina is going to be finding a way to prevent Georgia from hammering us on the inside.  The Gamecocks were able to press their advantages in rebounding and turnovers to take ten additional shots from the field, but were out-shot by 23 eFG percentage points, which is darn near impossible to overcome.

As happy as I am with the win over Ole Miss, it doesn’t fundamentally change the make-up of this team.  We’re still a group that’s going to struggle matching teams on the interior on either side of the court.  If we can turn that statistic into a wash, as we did against Ole Miss, we’ll have a chance.  If not, it’ll likely be a long afternoon in Athens.

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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3 Responses to Gamecocks finally get it right, beat Ole Miss 63-62

  1. Gary says:

    USC appears to have come out of the funk they have been in since the Florida game. Actually, they came out of it at Alabama. It looks like they have overcome the negativity that surrounded them since Florida. I don’t expect a repeat of that mindset this season. I think the team has decided that they are not going to give up.

    I agree that Bruce needs to shoot less. He is not usually a good shooter. I still think Frank needs to play Brenton Williams as much as possible. He played 18 minutes against OM, but I think he needs to play at least 25 minutes in every game. He is our most dependable scoring guard.

    I am encouraged by the improvement of Chatkevicius. We need his size in games and he is helping us. Carrera’s 13 points and 13 rebounds were pretty impressive for a 6-5 freshman.

    This team has talent limitations that will limit their success. But if they play as well as they can, they can be competitive in each of the remaining regular season games. It would be nice to have a winning record at the end of the regular season. They need 3 more wins to achieve that.

  2. Pingback: Gamecocks (and CBS) falter down the stretch, lose to Georgia 62-54 in OT |

  3. Pingback: Better Know An Opponent: Mississippi State (redux) |

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