Dec. 28, 2011
The banners still hang in Johnson Gymnasium, but the players most responsible for raising them have left. The Wofford Terriers come into Colonial Life Arena Wednesday, but with a different profile than the one that brought them back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Three-time All-SoCon forward Noah Dahlman (20.1 ppg '10-11) has graduated. So, too, has SoCon leading rebounder Tim Johnson (8.5 rpg). Four starters and 80% of their scoring are gone, but Darrin Horn insists the "residue of winning" remains on the Terriers. Holiday breaks can also be an exasperating equalizer, as teams look to return to their game rhythm. For a post-holiday opponent, 7-5 Wofford offers some punch.
Pre-tip reads before the Gamecocks and Terriers jump center in Columbia:
Man to Stop: Wofford 6'6" senior guard Kevin Giltner. A reserve the past two years on Wofford's NCAA Tournament teams, Giltner has elevated his scoring to a team-high 16.9 ppg. Last Wednesday vs. High Point, Giltner connected for a career-high 28 points on 8 three-pointers in a 87-79 loss. Assistant coach Mike Boynton recruited (and signed) Giltner from Kingston Springs, Tenn., while still a member of Mike Young's staff. Ironically, one of the schools Boynton had to parry in landing Giltner was Western Kentucky - led by Darrin Horn and assistants Neill Berry and Cypheus Bunton.
With the graduation of Dahlman, Johnson, and burly forward Terry Martin, Wofford has become a more perimeter-oriented team than a year ago. The Terriers will try to loosen Giltner on a medley of picks, mainly stagger-screens, screen-the-screener plays, and baseline pin-downs (where a teammate will come from the top of the key to the corner, leaving Giltner to curl over top over him). Malik Cooke, a fellow 6'6" multi-faceted athlete, played the role of Giltner in recent practices. The Gamecocks will need to stay attached to Giltner in their 2-3 zone, talk through screens, and "be there on the catch," in South Carolina coachspeak.
Bang The Boards: They haven't always turned gyms into shooting galleries - witness the 1st half vs. Southeastern Louisiana - but the Gamecocks' effort on the offensive glass has remained consistent. South Carolina has its highest national ranking in Offensive Rebounding Percentage (% of missed FGA on which the shooting team grabs its rebound), checking in at 29th nationally (38.4%).
South Carolina has posted its best numbers nationally in offensive rebounds.
Darrin Horn described the offensive rebounding technique he teaches to his players:
"We talk a lot about going 'baseline and out.' It's a quirky little thing. Guys are used to just turning around and finding a guy to box out. If you go toward the baseline first, you at least force that player to commit to that, which then gives you an opportunity to change angles, or you get behind him and you're on your way to the glass," Horn said.
Despite its downshift to a guard-oriented offense, Wofford still has impressive size (6 players in the rotation 6'6" or taller). The Terriers also lead the Southern Conference in field goal percentage defense (42.0%). A similar effort on the glass may be required Wednesday.
Reserves Running Low?: Wofford ranks 335th in the nation in bench scoring, getting only 20.8% of its points from its reserves. South Carolina, by contrast , ranks 25th (39.4%). The Terriers may seem ready-made to have their depth exploited, but it's far from a guarantee. Which team ranks last in the nation in bench scoring percentage? Providence, which beat the Gamecocks December 1.
Bench Scoring %
Rank % of Pts. from bench
25. South Carolina 39.4%
335. Wofford 20.8%
Speaking of which...
I Am Ironman: Wofford's Brad Loesing ranks 3rd in the nation, averaging 38.583 minutes per game. Loesing, a Cincinnati native, has logged 463 of a possible 480 minutes. Along with fellow yeoman Kevin Giltner (37.917 mpg), the Gamecocks will have quirkily faced 4 of the top 9 players in the nation in minutes per game.
NCAA Leaders - Minutes/Game
Rank School Mins./Game
1. Maurice Jones Southern Cal 39.077
3. Brad Loesing Wofford 38.583
6. Kevin Giltner Wofford 37.917
9. Bryce Cotton Providence 37.462
And that list doesn't include Presybterian's Khalid Mutakabbir, who finished 2nd in the nation last year in minutes per game.
Do The Carlton: Care to guess which Gamecock leads the team in rebounds and blocks per 40 minutes? Redshirt freshman Carlton Geathers. The soft-spoken, raw center from Carvers Bay HS came to South Carolina as a quintessential "project" (he only played two years of organized basketball). One-on-one skill sessions with assistant Cypheus Bunton capped almost every practice last year. Though Geathers only averages 8 minutes per game, Darrin Horn is pleased with the way he has maximized his minutes.
"Honestly, Carlton is probably a year ahead of schedule in my mind," Horn told me, referring to their long-term plans for his. "Everything that he brings us is positives. He doesn't turn the ball over, he's solid on defensive assignments, and he's bringing us a physical presence rebounding the basketball."
With R.J. Slawson's numbers dipping after his sore foot vs. Providence (see below), Geathers' play has steadied the Gamecocks' front line. Can he continue his solid minutes, and give himself a for SEC play?
R.J. Slawson PPG RPG
Before injury 7.5 5.7
After injury (4g) 1.8 1.5
And Finally... Part therapy, part personal challenge, and with a manager dutifully feeding him, Darrin Horn will occasionally shoot free throws before practice or during water breaks. Pure form clearly does not age. Another revelation from Coach Horn on "Carolina Calls": he made 62 straight free throws before a practice this year.
Join us Wednesday beginning at 6:30 p.m. EST on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. We'll see you then.