Gamecock’s Offense Goes Cold with the Weather


As temperatures dropped around the midlands last week, South Carolina’s offense struggled with a cold spell too. After winning their last seven non-conference games, including big wins over currently ranked Iowa St (#11) and Oklahoma St (#24), they have stumbled out of the gates in SEC play. Two straight losses to Florida and Ole Miss have taken some of the shine away from a team people were starting to believe in. In the latter of those two losses, the Gamecocks scored a season low 49 points, and are left looking for answers on the offensive end.

First was a lost to Florida, and to those who follow college basketball, this may not have been much of a shock. The Gators are an elite program, on a run of 4 straight trips to the Elite 8, with last season ending in the Final Four. The 2 time defending SEC Champs have struggled in close games this season, and came into their match up on Columbia at 7-6. They were finally able to put a complete game together and get a victory over a young Gamecocks team that was set up for a letdown after such a big win just a few days earlier.  Florida opened the game strong and controlled the contest most of the night.  While the Gamecocks got close to their season average in points, finishing with 68, they struggled to score most of the night, with the exception of hitting a few 3 pointers late to close the gap in the final minute.  The Gators played more like their usual selves, and were able to hand Carolina a 72-68 loss in the SEC opener.  Frank Martin’s team was led by Tyrone Johnson, who finished with 20 points 5 rebounds and 3 assists. The team’s two leading scorers entering the game, Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell, combined to shoot 2-11, finishing with 10 combined points, and as a team they shot right at 40%.

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Next up was a trip to Oxford, to face the Rebels of Ole Miss.  While the game against the Gators was a close contest in which the Gamecocks fell short, this game was a disaster from the beginning.  Five minutes in to the first half, the lights went out in the arena, halting a sloppy start for both teams.  After a twenty minute delay, the game started back up, but the lights were still out for USC’s offense.  Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy used a myriad of different defenses including a ¾ court press to slow Carolina down, and a zone to force them into outside shots.  While the ball movement around the zone was decent for Martin’s team, they never really attacked the zone and couldn’t get the ball in the paint for easy points.  They did pass well enough to get some open outside shots, but once again the Gamecocks couldn’t make them, finishing 4-20 from beyond the arc.  The defense wasn’t particularly bad on Saturday, but they were not able to force  turnovers and get transition baskets to help ease the burden of scoring against the Ole Miss zone.  The Rebels also have talented one on one players, so even with USC’s defenders in position, they were able to make shots.  On the other end, the Gamecocks struggled for every point they got.  The result was a poor performance and a 65-49 loss.

                FGM – FGA – Percentage

9 Wins     244 – 455 – 53.6%

5 Losses  111 – 277 – 40.0%

This year’s Gamecocks, while much improved over last year, are missing one thing that they had a season ago. Then senior Brenton Williams, the team’s leading scorer at 15 ppg, was able to break long scoring droughts and pull opponents out of the zone defense with his shooting ability.  Williams was good for between 2-4 three pointers per contest in SEC play, shooting 43% for the season.  Coach Martin has some good scoring guards at his disposal this year, but not a pure shooter, and it has shown the last two games.  Thornwell and Notice are both too talented to continue to shoot as poorly as they did last week, but Carolina needs them to continue to be aggressive and not settle for jumpers as much either.  The post players have had a rough start to SEC play as well, and the guards will need help to overcome bad shooting nights, by getting production form the big men.

Coach Martin must now get his team back to playing with the intensity and effort that led to the 7 game winning streak, and not allow one bad week of basketball to derail what had the looks of a promising season.  It will be an uphill battle for a program that has only finished with a winning record in SEC play three times since joining the conference.  There are still 16 league games remaining, so there is time, but the wins need to start coming soon, because you cannot dig too big of a hole or the season can be lost quickly.  I know the lack of success in our time in the SEC can be an ominous statistic, but remember, the last time this year’s squad had back to back poor performances in Charleston, they responded by winning seven straight games. The  hope is that Frank Martin can get his team back focused on what it needs to do to be successful, and respond in a similar fashion to the bad week it just had.