Brenton Williams drops 38, Gamecocks win final home game over State 79-72

On what was supposed to be a night where the focus was on Lakeem Jackson, Brenton Williams stole the show, scoring 38 points while using 38 percent of our possessions in 31 minutes, and the Gamecocks turned over State just enough to hold off a late rally and win 79-72 in their final home game of the season.

In a game that was even for the first half, the second half broke itself into two incredibly divergent units – the Gamecocks outscored State 29-12 to start the second half and jump out to a 19-point lead, before the Bulldogs rallied with a 14-0 run of their own to make things interesting late.

With the win and the Auburn loss, the Gamecocks are assured of finding themselves playing either State or Auburn in the first round of the SEC tournament as either the 12th or 13th seed, as both those teams are one game behind USC with one to play and face each other in the final regular season game, ensuring that one will end the season with at least four wins (our current number), but also ensuring that both can’t catch us.

Team

USC MSU
eFG 55.4 58.5
TO% 18.7 28.8
Oreb% 29.6 31.0
FTR 76.1 59.6
Pace 69

The final numbers belie just how dominant South Carolina was in the turnover department for most of this game.  Coming into the match-up, we knew the Gamecocks could likely force State into turnovers, but there was no clear indication that they could stop from turning the ball over themselves.  For the first 33 minutes of the game, State’s turnover percentage stayed in the 30s while the Gamecocks’ sat under 15, and it was the slow convergence of those two numbers down the stretch that let the Bulldogs hang around.  In the end, the lead was simply too great, the time was simply too short, and Carolina had its fourth SEC victory.

Unfortunately, this game doesn’t give me too much hope going forward, and not just because it came against State.  Against this anemic an offense, it’s disappointing that we still conceded over one point per possession (1.04).  Even more distressing, if you look at State’s effective possessions (those not ending in a turnover), we gave up 1.469 ppp, which will get you killed in any game against even half-decent opposition.

That came from the fact we simply couldn’t stop the Bulldogs from scoring inside (the 63% hit rate from 2P is unconscionable), and distressingly couldn’t keep them off the boards or stop from fouling.  The steals were of course helpful, but the problems this team has had all year haven’t gone away, and aren’t going away.

On the offensive side of the ball, Carolina won the game in large part by protecting the basketball and stroking it from outside, going 9-22 (41%) from 3PA and taking almost half their FGAs from beyond the arc.  The other place that Carolina got its work done was at the free throw line, where its 35 FTAs and its 80 percent rate were what both grew and iced the lead.

One thing that shocked me was that Mississippi State, who has one of the worst defensive rebounding rates in the nation, held us to less than 30 percent in our offensive rebounding percentage.  Offensive rebounds have become more and more scarce as the season has gone along, and I’m not sure if it’s from the step-up in competition or Martin de-emphasizing them so the team can get back on defense.  That would certainly explain why our defensive efficiency has ticked up while our offensive efficiency has slowly ticked downward as SEC play has gone on.

Individual

Mississippi St.
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Craig Sword
33
31
20
5-5
2-4
4-9
0
2
3
5
Fred Thomas
26
21
8
1-4
2-6
0-0
0
2
4
1
Gavin Ware
24
14
6
2-2
0-0
2-5
2
3
0
1
Colin Borchert
22
24
7
2-4
1-3
0-0
1
1
1
3
Trivante Bloodman
17
21
2
0-0
0-1
2-2
2
1
4
3
Roquez Johnson
33
22
12
3-4
0-0
6-9
1
2
0
5
Jalen Steele
25
30
17
4-8
2-5
3-3
2
2
0
1
Tyson Cunningham
19
5
0
0-0
0-1
0-0
1
5
2
0
Baxter Price
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
0
1
1
TOTAL
200
72
17-27
7-20
17-28
9
19
14
20
1.04
63.0%
35.0%
60.7%
31.0%
70.4%
58.3%
29.0%
South Carolina
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Bruce Ellington
33
23
9
0-2
1-3
6-9
0
1
6
4
Lakeem Jackson
33
14
9
4-6
0-0
1-2
3
5
1
1
Brian Steele
15
25
6
0-1
2-5
0-0
1
1
2
1
Michael Carrera
14
13
4
1-2
0-0
2-2
1
2
1
0
Shane Phillips
3
2
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Brenton Williams
31
38
38
4-8
6-9
12-12
1
3
3
1
Eric Smith
24
22
6
0-2
0-2
6-8
0
2
3
2
Mindaugas Kacinas
22
5
1
0-0
0-0
1-2
0
3
0
1
Damien Leonard
11
29
2
1-1
0-3
0-0
0
1
2
2
RJ Slawson
8
2
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Laimonas Chatkevicius
5
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
1
0
1
Brian Richardson
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
2
1
0
TOTAL
200
79
12-24
9-22
28-35
8
20
18
13
1.14
50.0%
40.9%
80.0%
29.6%
69.0%
85.7%
18.8%

You don’t need the sheet above to know that Brenton Williams was the story of the evening, filling it up from everywhere he shot (50 percent or better from 2P, 3P, and FT).  Coupled with only one turnover and three assists, it was as good a game as Brenton has played all year, and hopefully gives him something to build upon going into our final few games.

Elsewhere, Bruce’s four turnovers were costly as they helped the Bulldogs get back into the game as it went along – he’s remaining “good enough” on offense, but he needs to bring more overall if he’s going to make that an impactful position.  Our friends at Rubber Chickens suggested in their recent podcast that Bruce may not be back next year, and if Tyrone Johnson ends up being as good as people are making him sound, that might not be as bad a thing as it’ll be made out to be in the mainstream press.

Lakeem had a fine night on senior night, going 4-6 from the field while grabbing eight rebounds (three offensive) with an assist to go with only one turnover.  He was the Lakeem we’ve come to know – someone who’ll use between 15-20 percent of our possessions effectively and play good defense, but is going to need help from the other guys.  He’s an outstanding role player on a team that never gave him the rest of the pieces he needed to be really successful, but he (much like Malik Cooke) gave us a lot in his time here.

Michael Carrera had another strong game in minutes that were limited due to foul trouble, though using far fewer possessions than he normally does (that said, Brenton was on fire last night and when he was on the court, he took up about double the possessions than you’d normally expect).  I found a great stat yesterday that I wanted to pass along about Carrera:

What a beast.

For State, we never did a great job of stopping them on the inside, as everyone but Fred Thomas hit 50 percent or better on the interior.  Fortunately for us, we forced four of their guys into three or more turnovers.  That was really the difference – as we noted above, when State didn’t turn the ball over, they killed us.  Luckily for us, they threw it away just enough to get us the victory.

Up Next

The Gamecocks finish SEC play at an improving Vanderbilt on Saturday before heading back to (or staying in) Nashville for the SEC tournament, which will begin for Carolina on Wednesday at 6:30pm on the SEC Network, as either the 12 or 13 seed playing either Auburn or Mississippi State.  I’m not sure how the previews/reviews will work for the tournament, but hopefully we’ll win a couple of games and make me work next week.

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Better Know An Opponent: Mississippi State (redux)

The Gamecocks wrap up their home schedule this Wednesday evening with a match-up against fellow cellar dwellers Mississippi State.  South Carolina comes into this game on a three-game skid, the most recent of which included some interesting roster decisions.  State enters the game on its first win since January 12th (remember, their win over Carolina was January 9th), doing extensive damage to Ole Miss’ chances of an NCAA tournament berth (of course, beating Ole Miss at home doesn’t differentiate these two teams from one another).

This game should have seeding implications for the SEC tournament.  If State wins, they’ll move a game up on USC, and the Gamecocks will be locked into at least the 13th seed in the SEC tournament (by virtue of being unable to win a tiebreaker against State), and most likely the 14th seed unless it can both beat Vanderbilt on the road and Auburn loses both at home to Tennessee and in Starkville on Saturday.  The team who holds the 14th seed will most likely see Texas A&M in the opening round of the SEC tournament, while the winner is likely to face Auburn.

Given the new format, the winner is looking at a much easier opening round SEC tournament game, with a chance to progress to a match-up with the number five seed.  It seems likely that will end up being Ole Miss, a team that South Carolina obviously has shown it can beat on the right afternoon.

Of course, no matter the draw, it’s incredibly unlikely the Gamecocks will make any run of note in the SEC tournament, but it’s always better to end the season on the upswing rather than the opposite.  The team who wins on Wednesday will have taken a big step toward that just by virtue of winning, and will have positioned itself to have a shot at getting one or two more positive outcomes to end the  year.  The loser will likely have two games to go in its season.

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What I’m reading: March 5, 2013

The Rockets Reach for Greatness, by Zach Lowe.  A look at a team using advanced analytics somewhat successfully, and including a discussion of the limitations of how far it has taken them thus far.

John Lanchaster rides the London Underground, by John Lanchaster. If you like public transportation, interesting stories, London, or simly good writing, I think you’ll enjoy this piece.  Some interesting tidbits – people starting commuting because of sex; shortening one’s commute is one of the few ways someone can make themselves happier; and five times as many people travel on the tube each day as live in Columbia.

History sucks: Dennis Rodman’s unwitting turn as an incompetent diplomat, by Matt Ufford.  A look at The Worm’s trip to North Korea, which includes some points on how sports can bring together (in a sense) two people who otherwise would never be associated with one another.  It’s rather amazing that, despite all the differences between them as people, let alone their two countries, both Barack Obama and Kim Jong-Un are both Bulls fans, right?

Back on the Trail, by Jason Zengerle.  Many of you may be interested to read this piece on the political resurgence of former governor Mark Sanford.  I, for one, was very taken aback by this one anecdote though, and wonder if it might not show that he really can’t recover from what he put the state (and his wife) through:

His infidelity notwithstanding, it seems he never considered ending the marriage. Even after Jenny discovered the affair, he tried to find some middle ground that would allow him to preserve both relationships, begging for his wife’s permission to have visits—albeit non-conjugal ones—with his mistress. (On one occasion, for a trip to New York, Jenny granted it, on the condition that a friend serve as chaperone. “Sleep well,” the friend texted Jenny at the end of the evening. “He played by the rules.”)

Stats, storytelling, and Sloan: How to make advanced stats in basketball a more engaging conversation, by Paul Flannery.  Interestingly he notes one of the best ways to do this is to inform the local broadcast team.  Here, we’re in excellent shape thanks to the stat-heavy tones of Gamecock radio frontman, Andy Demetra.

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A&M wins by 18, Martin shows only he and Bruce have job security

So, that was interesting.

On Saturday night, freshman Brian Steele got his first start of his career in place of senior Lakeem Jackson, and quintupled his playing time on the season (going from 5 minutes to 30 minutes).  Shane Phillips more than doubled his total playing time this season, as he saw 13 minutes of playing time.  At the end, fellow walk-on Austin Constable got a minute of playing time.

And the Gamecocks, after going into halftime tied, couldn’t adjust to the zone that A&M presented them in the second half, but more importantly, couldn’t stop them defensively to save their collective lives in the final 10 minutes, and ultimately fell by a final score of 74-56.

This was, suffice to say, an incredibly weird game – 11 Gamecocks saw time on the floor, and they did not include either Brian Richardson or Laimonas Chatkevicius.  Chatkevicius had started the last four games and averaged 23.5 minutes over those outings, so it makes sense that Martin thought he needed a rest (he also played his best offensive game of the season thus far against Missouri).  Richardson got his first DNP of the season after eight straight games of playing 15 or more minutes and coming off back-to-back excellent offensive performances against Georgia and Missouri.

And yet, the Gamecocks went into the half tied and were only down four going into the final 10 minutes, before A&M reeled off 34 points in the last quarter of the game to seal the victory.  While the focus will be on the shift to the zone (and somewhat fairly – the increase in turnovers gave A&M a lot of their buckets), the Gamecocks woes once again shifted back to the defensive end, a frustrating reversal given that one of the positives that seemed to be coming out of this season was that our defense steadily improved throughout the year (though mostly at the expense of our offense).  At this point, I don’t know what the hell to think, and it seems Martin doesn’t either.  What an odd, odd game.

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Better Know An Opponent: Texas A&M

This is going to have to serve as a mini-preview of Texas A&M as well, so buckle in.  The Aggies have had a very up-and-down run of it in their first SEC season, and come into the game at 6-9 in conference.  They look like so many SEC teams this season – just good enough to be interesting and fiesty (see also: LSU, Vanderbilt, Georgia, Arkansas), but not good enough to differentiate itself from the third-tier of the conference.

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Missouri demolishes Gamecocks inside, 90-68

The game went about as badly as expected.  In our preview, we indicated we didn’t see a way that the Gamecocks could stop Missouri inside.  But we meant Missouri might hit 60-65% of its shots inside, while holding the Gamecocks to around a 40% mark.  Like many things in sports, these things have natural upper and lower bounds when two teams from the same conference play.

Not on this night.  Missouri just wore out South Carolina’s post players, no matter who came inside.  While Alex Oriakhi and Laurence Bowers certainly got theirs, Keion Bell – only 6’4″ in stature – dominated throughout the evening, scoring 20 points in the first half and making a complete mockery of anything we played that resembled post defense.

While the offense actually played pretty well, all things considered, the defensive effort meant that even when it looked like Carolina was still in the game at halftime (down only seven at 43-36), you could always sense the game was never going to end up being close, because there was simply no way Carolina could keep up the pace, and no indication they had any way of slowing Missouri down.

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What I’m Reading: 2.28.13

Strength of Schedule: Miamia versus Michigan, by Jacob Wheatley-Schaller.  A piece that should help you consider (or re-consider) how you view strength of schedule.

One Last Post on 3P% Defense, by Ken Pomeroy.  I thought this point had been addressed before, but Ken digs a bit further into the research to show that 2P% defense can have some minor impact on 3P% defense.  This makes sense – the harder it is to score in other ways, the more you’ll take bad 3s to compensate.  I still haven’t figured out exactly the hypothesis I like the best, or one that can be empirically tested, but this is still an interesting development that’s come through over the last year or so of basketball research – I’m surprised no one had found it before now.

A Proper Pimento Burger, by Robert Moss.  If you’re ever jones-ing for one in the Columbia area, here’s a great list.  My personal favorite remains Rockaways, though I’m told the new place in Five Points is a worthy competitor.

Cinema Tarantino: The Making of Pulp Fiction, by Mark Seal.  Pretty great read on a pretty great movie.  Though I generally agree with Drew Magary’s take on oral histories, frankly, they’re pretty fun when you like the subject matter.

Wretches of the Hidden Temple: Cruelest game show, played by worst children, by Jon Bois.  If you’re a child of the mid-1990s, you will love this.  If not, my apologies.

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Better Know An Opponent: Missouri (redux)

The Gamecocks continue through their portion of the season with nothing but return games from prior match-ups (this Saturday’s game in College Station is the exception) as they welcome Missouri to our Columbia for the first time ever.

Many Gamecock fans will remember these Tigers from our close-but-not-quite defeat at their hands earlier this year out in Missouri.  That game involved a lot of fortunate bounces and the absence of Laurence Bowers.  The Missouri basketball program assures us that Bowers will not be missing this time around, and if the bounces are also not going our way, it could be a long evening.

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SEC Power Poll: 2.26.13

The poll follows below.  You’ll never guess who tops it…

 

Also, as Whittle notes:

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Gamecocks (and CBS) falter down the stretch, lose to Georgia 62-54 in OT

The Gamecocks dropped a game that I would’ve found utterly comical had they not been involved in it, with a disheartening 62-54 overtime loss in Athens to finish off being swept by the Georgia Bulldogs in regular season SEC play.

It was a game marred by the participants themselves, though CBS (who cut away from the final minute to begin pre-game coverage of the Georgetown-Syracuse game), the referees, and the official timekeeper all added to the cacophony of errors at the end of this otherwise unentertaining and uninspiring game that had a myriad of people on Twitter asking why the hell they were being subjected to this match-up (the best guess being that the SEC TV contract requires some basketball on CBS for them to get the top choice for football).

That nonsense aside, it was a game where the Gamecocks played better than they had during their miserable mid-conference stretch of six consecutive SEC losses, but in the end they couldn’t create enough offense at the end (from the line or otherwise) and couldn’t pick up KCP on a crucial late three-pointer, and the result was yet another disheartening loss.

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