Monday, January 7, 2013

It's Not How You Win, It's as Long as You Win (Recap of SC State v.South Carolina)

Entering Saturday's game vs. the Bulldogs, the Gamecocks had won nine of their first twelve games. With a win over their fellow Palmetto State school, South Carolina would match their entire win total from last season. But the Gamecocks would have to do that without their second, third and fourth leading scorers. LaShay Page still has a pending academic issue, while Michael Carrera is nursing a hip injury. Finally, Bruce Ellington was recovering from his heroic Outback Bowl game where he caught the game winning touchdown.

So it would be interesting to see how Frank Martin's team would play from the start. The fans in attendance at Colonial Life Arena found out quickly as the Bulldogs went out to a 10-2 lead as the Gamecocks had no answer for SC State forward Matthew Hezekiah. Hezekiah scored six of the Bulldogs first ten points.

The Bulldogs maintained their advantage, as they lead 18-11 with a little more than twelve and a half minutes left in the first half. Slowly but surely, the Gamecocks chipped away at the SC State lead. South Carolina would go on a 9-1 "crawl" over five and half minutes. Mindaugas Kacinas' tip in off a Lakeem Jackson miss put the Gamecocks up 20-19 with 7:20 left in the half.

Hezekiah briefly put the Bulldogs back up by one. But a Damien Leonard three pointer put the Gamecocks up for good. South Carolina would enter the half up eight, 37-29 after another Kacinas tip shot.

After the halftime event which featured a husband and wife clown team performing various stunts. the Gamecocks extended their lead to twelve points. Brian Richardson, making the start yesterday for South Carolina hit a jumper to put his team up 45-33. But the Bulldogs refused to go away. Once again, it was Hezekiah who scored four straight points to cut the Gamecocks lead to eight, 45-37 with just under sixteen minutes left.

But other than Hezekiah, the Bulldogs didn't have really any other scoring options. The closest SC State would get to South Carolina was six points, 61-55 on a Patrick Myers jumper with a little more than seven minutes left.

The Gamecocks would pull away, scoring the next six straight points. A Brenton Williams three point play, followed by a Richardson three pointer put South Carolina up twelve, 67-55, with 6:41 left. The lead would grow as much as fourteen as the Gamecocks would end up winning 80-69.

Hezekiah was dominant, shooting 12 of 18 from the field for twenty four points. He also added fourteen rebounds, seven of which came on the offensive end. The only other player in double figures for the Bulldogs was Louis Adams, who scored eight of his twelve points from the free throw line.

Despite not having three of their top four scorers, South Carolina managed to still have four players in double figures scoring. Jackson led the Gamecocks with sixteen points and eight rebounds. Richardson scored fifteen points, Williams chipped in with fourteen points and Leonard added ten points. Kacinas nearly had a double double with nine points and ten rebounds. Eric Smith added seven assists for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks got their tenth win, matching the season total for last season. Now comes the teeth of the schedule, eighteen conference games. South Carolina needs to be at full strength come SEC play time. That starts Wednesday at Mississippi State.

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