Sunday, February 23, 2014

Second Half Shooting Ice Storm Dooms Gamecocks (Recap of Georgia v. South Carolina Men's Basketball Game)

Last week, South Carolina had its second winter storm of the season.  It resulted in over three hundred thousand people affected by power outages, three days of school closures and a wish by many for an early spring.  The Gamecocks basketball team again thrived on the icetastophre weather though, defeating Vanderbilt, just like they did when they defeated Texas A&M back in late January after another winter storm.

Despite it being a Whiteout day vs. Georgia, there was no such bad, cold weather on Saturday.  It was a beautiful, sunny day in Columbia, South Carolina, with the temperature around seventy degrees.  And after two morning baseball practices, my color analyst, aka my older son Matthew, and I took the familiar fifteen minute drive from our house to Colonial Life Arena.

As we drove up to the parking lot a half hour before game time, it seemed more crowded around the arena parking lots than usual. That's when we found out that the baseball team had a home game around the same time. Thus one of the usual parking lots for basketball was turned into a game-day shuttle lot for baseball fans.  Considering the baseball stadium holds 8,000 for a baseball game, plus add that to 13,000 out for a basketball game, and you have the ingredients for serious traffic delays around the arena.

Matt and I made the best of a situation and found our way to the parking garage across from Colonial Life.  When  we walked into the arena, we found it adorned in the colors of the day, white, as each seat was adorned with ESPN SEC network towels. The Gamecocks were hosting a Bulldogs' team that entered the game in third place in the SEC at 8-5.

Sindarius Thornwell started the scoring out with a three pointer for the Gamecocks.  But the Bulldogs responded with six straight points, including an old fashioned three point play by Kenny Gaines that put Georgia up 6-3.  Gaines would be a constant thorn in South Carolina's side the entire day.

The Gamecocks responded with a 10-0 spurt over four and a half minutes.  It was led by none other than South Carolina's leading scorer, Brenton Williams.  Williams buried two three pointers during the span and his second one put the Gamecocks up 13-6.

But Gaines would answer back by nearly being a one man for the Bulldogs.  After Brandon Morris hit a three point play for Georgia to cut the lead to 13-9.  Then after Williams headed to the bench after picking up his second foul guarding him, Gaines would score the next nine straight points for the Bulldogs.  His three pointer put Georgia up one, 18-17 with nine and a half minutes left in the first half.  

Thornwell would respond to put the Gamecocks up one, 19-18. But the Bulldogs would score the next five points to go up 23-19.  After Thornwell scored another three straight points to cut the lead back to one,  Gaines would bury a three pointer to put Georgia back up four 26-22.

The back and forth continued between the two teams, as South Carolina would respond with six quick points, a three pointer by Brian Steele, who is seeing a lot more playing time as of late, and three Duane Notice free throws to put the Gamecocks back up two 28-26.

The teams would continue to trade the lead for the last three and a half minutes of the half until Steele again buried a three pointer to tie the game at thirty four at the half.   Both teams made ten field goals in the first half, with the Gamecocks hitting one more three pointer (they were five of nine from beyond the arc in the first twenty minutes).

The second half started out innocently enough with the Bulldogs going in front on another Morris three point play. After two Thornton free throws put the Bulldogs up five, Notice hit one of two free throws to cut the Georgia lead to four, 39-35 with about eighteen and a half minutes left in the game.

But the Gamecocks had started out missing their first three field goals in the second half and committed a turnover before that Notice free throw.  The empty possessions continued as Williams missed two jumpers, Thornwell missed two jumpers and Kacinas missed not one, but two tip in attempts.

But Georgia couldn't take advantage as they went nearly three minutes without scoring a point.  Finally, Gaines hit a layup to put the Bulldogs up six, 41-35.  Still, there was over fifteen and a half minutes left for the Gamecocks to find their stride shooting wise and only have to makeup a six point deficit.

But the empty possessions continued for South Carolina.  Williams missed a layup and Steele missed two jumpers.  After Laimonas Chatkevicius turned the ball over, Williams and Notice missed jumpers.

Meanwhile, the Bulldogs started hitting their shots.  Nemanja Djurisic scored five straight points, including a three pointer that capped a 11-0 run to put Georgia up 50-35.  Finally with a little less than eleven minutes remaining in the game, Thornwell hit a turnaround jumper to end the zero for fourteen shooting drought and the Gamecocks were down thirteen, 50-37.

But the damage had been done.  After Juwan Parker and Williams traded three point possessions,  Parker's an old fashioned three point play and Williams with his usual beyond the arc skills, the Bulldogs would extend the lead to nineteen by scoring the next six points to go up 59-40 with nine minutes left.  By that time, some fans actually headed to the exits.

Unfortunately, the Gamecocks didn't make those fans regret their decision.  Gaines continued to torment the Gamecocks with his scoring.  His three pointer put Georgia up twenty, 62-42.   All that was left was for South Carolina Head Coach Frank Martin to get a technical foul call to express his frustration with the referees as well as his team's second half play.  

The Bulldogs would go onto win 73-56 and firmly lock themselves in third place in the SEC at 9-5, two games ahead of seven other teams tied for fourth at 7-7.  Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are tied for the cellar in the SEC with Mississippi State at 3-11.  South Carolina shot just sixteen percent in the second half, five of thirty one, and twenty six percent for the game.

Gaines led all scorers with twenty seven points, a career high for him.  The sophomore guard shot nine of fourteen from the field including five of nine from beyond the arc.   Thornton had a double double with twelve points and ten rebounds while Morris added twelve also for the Bulldogs.  The Bulldogs outrebounded the Gamecocks 40-38.  When Georgia outrebounds a team, they are 15-3.  They are 0-8 when they are outrebounded.

Thornwell led South Carolina with eighteen points and Williams added sixteen points.  However, they combined to shoot nine of thirty one from the field.  The rest of the team shot a measly six of twenty six.

The weather is getting warmer finally in Columbia, South Carolina.  One can only hope that the Gamecocks shooting will get warmer too.

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