Don’t Look Now But Men’s Basketball Looks Good


After the disappointing end to the Gamecocks football season, when the men’s basketball team started out 2-3, many people were ready to give up on the season.   And maybe rightfully so, with losses to Akron, Charlotte, and Baylor.  But something happened during those losses in the Charleston Classic, and the team seemed to realize what needed to change if things were going to improve.  As David Knight talked about in his article a couple weeks ago, the players started to emulate their coach, with energy, intensity and an in your face style of play.  A month later and the Gamecocks have now won 5 straight and now a very respectable 7-3 on the season.

The main focus has been on defense with this renewed level of confidence.  During this stretch, they’ve only allowed one opponent to score more than 60 points, and the last three games they’ve held teams to under 30% shooting from the field, something Coach Frank Martin said he’s not sure he’s ever witnesses.  One of these wins was against a very offensive-minded Oklahoma State, who is 9-2 on the season, and only put up 49 points against the Gamecocks, a season low by more than 15 points.  Considering they have scored more than 80 points in four games makes even more impressive.  The Gamecocks also held in-state rival 6-4 Clemson to a season low 45 points, 14 points below their next lowest output.

The interesting thing is the focus on defense has given them a renewed level of confidence in other areas as well.  The Gamecocks are actually ahead of their opponents for the season in every major statistic, except 3-point shooting, which they are behind 29.6% to 29.8%.  They have out-rebounded others, blocked far more shots, have more steals, doubled the number of assists, and ultimately all this has lead to a 14.5 point margin of victory on average.  This is pretty complete play already, but the fact they are holding all their 10 opponents to 33.8% shooting for the year is ultimate show of force.

The streak and renewed confidence couldn’t have come at a better time.  The Gamecocks have a game next Tuesday against North Carolina A&T, then right after the first of the year head to Brooklyn, NY to take on the #13 Iowa State Cyclones, a very good shooting team hitting more than 50% from the field and 37% from 3-point range.  From there, the Gamecocks finish the year with 18 straight SEC opponents, starting off against last year’s SEC tourney champion Florida and also including two games against #1 Kentucky.  If they continue to play the way they have as of late, those games could be approached with more excitement than dread, which could have easily been the case five games ago.