February 15, 2012
Ever run on a treadmill, then step off and try to walk? That may be how it feels when South Carolina takes the floor Wednesday.
In the SEC, no two opponents combine for a more disorienting change of tempo than Carolina's last opponent and its next one. Arkansas, with its frenzied "40 Minutes of Hell" style, ranks 15th in the nation in Adjusted Tempo (71.7 possessions/game). Georgia, led by triangle tactician Mark Fox, ranks 323rd (62.0 possessions/game).
Brace yourself: Slow speeds ahead.
Georgia's tempo plays right into Carolina's wheelhouse - the Gamecocks rank a similarly low 318th (62.4). If you're expecting a lurching, low-scoring muckfest, though, you'll be disappointed. Georgia (12-12, 3-7 SEC) has racked up impressive back-to-back wins over Arkansas and #20 Mississippi State in overtime. Carolina hopes to make that confidence short-lived, while igniting some late-season confidence of its own. Pre-tip reads before Gamecocks and Bulldogs battle it out in Columbia:
One Half "Down"... An eerie coincidence started to unfold in the final minutes of the first half at Bud Walton Arena. Three days earlier, Tennessee had used an 11-2 run to lead Carolina 35-27 at halftime. Arkansas followed a similar blueprint, using an 11-0 run to stretch a 27-27 tie into a 38-27 lead at halftime. Over the last three games, South Carolina has been outscored 28-4 in the final 3:00 of the first half.
Final 3:00 of the 1st Half - Last 3 games
Opponent Score at 3:00 Score at Halftime Run
Kentucky 45-25 UK 52-25 7-0
Tennessee 23-21 USC 35-27 UT 14-4
Arkansas 31-27 ARK 38-27 7-0
USC: 2-13 FG, 0-2 FT
And that's despite an interesting stat I unearthed from reviewing the tape. Oddly, South Carolina got an offensive rebound -- either by an individual or on a dead ball -- on 7 of its 11 missed shots.
South Carolina has scored 313 2nd-chance points on 311 offensive rebounds this year - a nearly 1:1 ratio. Yet in their first-half breakdowns, South Carolina scored 0 points on 7 offensive rebounds.
The remedy is there. If the Gamecocks can convert, the walk to the locker room need not feel so desultory.
Offensive Rebounds 2nd Chance Points
Season 311 313
3:00-Half, Last 3g 7 0
With its spacing, cutting, and constant movement, Georgia's triangle offense demands agile, good passing big man. Georgia had several of them last year in center Trey Thompkins, freakishly athletic Travis Leslie, and burly (but nimble) forward Jeremy Price. Those three players are all gone, though, leaving behind a frontcourt thin in both talent and experience.
If South Carolina's forwards get extended, can they lock down defensively vs. Georgia's triangle?
Georgia guard Gerald Robinson Jr. With Thompkins, Leslie, and Price circulating through the paint last year, Robinson's offense was mostly opportunistic. This year, the 6'1" Robinson (pictured left) has become the centerpiece in head coach Mark Fox's triangle offense.
Georgia guard Gerald Robinson played two seasons at Tennessee State before transferring to UGa.
The triangle is designed to keep the ball well distributed, which makes Robinson's numbers intriguing. Though far from a high-wattage star, Robinson leads the SEC, and ranks 34th nationally, in % of Possessions Used (%Poss). Essentially, that's the percentage of a team's possessions that ends with an individual a.) making a shot; b.) missing a shot that isn't rebounded by the offense; or c.) committing a turnover. When he's on the court, Robinson uses 30.3% of Georgia's possessions. Last year, Georgia didn't have a player who ranked in the Top 100.
Robinson got to the rim at will against Arkansas, exploding for a career-high 27 points en route to SEC Player of the Week honors. However, he struggled against South Carolina in two meetings last year, making only 5-17 field goals while committing 9 turnovers. Take him out of his rhythm, and it fundamentally alters the flow of the Bulldog offense. The Gamecocks have to stay attached to Robinson, talk out screens, and not allow him to shed them off the dribble.
The "Jack-Hammer": Lakeem Jackson, the junior forward from Charlotte, played 25 solid minutes against Arkansas, scoring 6 points while only committing one turnover. He also gave the Gamecocks some rugged perimeter defense against Arkansas' guard-heavy lineup.
He could figure into Carolina's game plan again against another perimeter-oriented team in the Bulldogs. Georgia does not turn the ball over often in its triangle - opponents get steals on just 6.9% of the Bulldogs' possessions, the 6th-lowest figure in the nation. On the flip side, Georgia's field-goal percentage (39.5%) ranks last in the SEC.
Lakeem Jackson (right) may have earned himself more minutes with his defensive play vs. Arkansas.
The recipe should be straightforward: meet Georgia on the catch, and don't get loose while trapping or defending dribble-handoffs. Another key: defensive-rebound forcefully. Georgia ranks last in the SEC in offensive rebound %, grabbing only 31% of their missed shots.
Not much has gone right lately for freshman forward Anthony Gill. In his last two games, the easygoing Charlotte native has gone a not-so-easy 0-for-8 from the field. He has also made just 5 of his last 16 free throws, after entering the month at 75%. Assistant coach Mike Boynton hollered for Gill to "finish your shot!" during one fruitless free-throw trip at Arkansas.
Pay attention to one area in particular for freshman Anthony Gill Wednesday.
"One of Anthony's great strengths is he really sees the game, and has good basketball IQ. Sometimes, I think he sees too much, if that makes sense," Horn told me during our pre-game interview at Arkansas. "He just need to get him locked in on rebounding the basketball and being aggressive, and he'll do fine."
Horn knows of what he speaks. Gill's commitment to rebounding has been a bellwether for South Carolina. In the Gamecocks' nine wins, Gill averages 7.0 rebounds per game. In their 15 losses, that number drops to 3.9 rpg.
Anthony Gill '11-12
Wins 7.0 rpg
Losses 3.9 rpg
It comes as no surprise that Gill's SEC high in rebounds (9) came in Carolina's lone win over Alabama.
And Finally... Georgia is looking for its first three-game SEC win streak since its Cinderella run to the 2008 SEC Tournament title.
Now that we're prepared, we hope you are as well. Our pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. We'll see you at Colonial Life Arena.