South Carolina’s MBB returned to what many of us expected in Charleston last weekend, and perhaps a little worse than expected after the unexpected 2-0 start to the season. After going 3-0 at the Holy City, the Gamecocks will look to score a W in Charleston where they play a neutral game this afternoon at 4:00 p.m. at the TD Arena. Despite last weekend’s struggles, South Carolina comes in as the favorite in this competition at -12.5 and they need big plays from freshman phenom if they hope to cover GG Jackson along with a combination of early leaders Hayden BrownMeechie Johnson and Chico Carter.
Last weekend in Charleston, the Gamecocks were hit defensively by far too many backdoor cuts, resulting in easy points on blowout losses to Colorado State and Furman and a slightly more respectable 9-point loss to Davidson. It was a far cry from the defensive performance shown in the surprise 60-58 win over Clemson on November 11, where the Gamecocks played with exceptional effort on defense, passing Clemson on both ends of the floor. USC Upstate had its own struggles early in the season, including a stunning 83-56 loss to the Air Force on Monday.
The two teams are mirrored in scoring, with Upstate averaging 66.6 points per game while giving up 73.6 points per game, and the Gamecocks averaging 62.6 points per game while 73.6 points per game surrender game. The main difference lies in South Carolina’s miserable shot percentage, which currently sits at a low 38.4%. An early worrying trend was that the Gamecocks were content with hard shots as they gained more possession, and they could benefit from pushing the ball inwards with a bit more tenacity, especially against a side where they should have an athletic advantage today.
Coach David Dickerson has steered the Spartans in the right direction in his 5th year at the helm, set a program record for conference wins last season with 10, and earned the Spartans a trip to The Basketball Classic postseason after finishing 4th as a regular in the Big South th place had taken season ranking.
The Gamecocks are still trying to find their identity under the freshman head coach Lamont Paris who had quite a challenge ahead, with some young talent but mostly unproven, with only 15% of the Gamecocks’ production returning from last season.
The Spartans are led by the trio’s strong guarding game Jordan Gainey (14.4 ppg), Justin Bailey (11 pages) and Trae Broadnax (10.8 ppg), but South Carolina should have an advantage indoors, where Josh Grey and GG Jackson should have a scale advantage, and Hayden Brown has already proven that he can keep up with almost anyone.
Gamecock’s 83 —— Upstate 71
I think the Gamecocks are getting back on track after their poor showing at the Charleston Classic. I expect some of the same old frustrations to crop up here and there with easy baskets for Spartan guards as they drive in, but ultimately their superior length should give South Carolina enough second chance opportunities to make up for their shooting weaknesses.