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"Inside The Chart" with Andy Demetra (@GamecockRadio) - February 2, 2012

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February 2, 2012

 

Brenton Williams' shooting ability has been a poorly kept secret in the Gamecocks' practice facility.

 

"I always challenge our guys after practice to see how many [three-pointers] they can make in a row.  He holds the record - 31 in a row," assistant coach Mike Boynton said on "Carolina Calls."

 

Brenton Williams.jpegNow, Williams' marksmanship has started to leak out to the rest of the SEC.  After dropping a career-high 15 points against Ole Miss, the 5'11" Kissimmee, Fla., native has shot his way into a more prominent role in the Gamecocks' backcourt rotation.  He'll have a chance to solidify that spot Thursday, when the Gamecocks return to his mater patria to face #12 Florida (9:00 p.m. EST, Gamecock IMG Sports Network). 

 

Ironically, the Gamecocks' recruitment of Williams required several trips to Gainesville.  Despite earning county Player of the Year honors at Osceola HS, Williams' best scholarship offers came from Division I lightweights Louisiana Tech, Florida A&M and Bethune-Cookman.  He opted instead to enroll at Santa Fe Community College, two hours southeast of Kissimmee but 2.3 miles from Florida's Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville.  Williams said his father convinced him that by going to a junior college, he could play his way into a larger offer.

 

"I definitely got what I wanted out of it.  Good coaching, good competition," Williams said.

 

Seeking help in the backcourt - a need intensified by Bruce Ellington's decision to play football - the Gamecock coaches were intrigued by Williams' play.  He only averaged 11.8 ppg and 39% 3-point shooting at Santa Fe, but his numbers didn't illustrate his impact. 

 

"We could immediately see his athleticism and explosiveness on the offensive end," Boynton said.  "One thing that always happened, whether in high school or junior college, was he was always efficient when it came to scoring the basketball."

 

Brenton Williams-2.jpegAssistant coach Neill Berry, head coach Darrin Horn, and Boynton all made trips to Santa Fe to scout Williams. They enticed him into making a campus visit in April, taking him to a baseball game at Carolina Stadium.  The Gamecock coaches also had to fend off his hometown school, UCF, which had begun to show interest (no small task, considering Williams' closeness to his family). 

 

Fresh off a career-high 15 points against Ole Miss, sophomore Brenton Williams (right) will return to his junior college's hometown Thursday. 

 

Williams began the year as Carolina's third-string guard, a position that only became cemented when he missed five non-conference games due to a knee injury.  His confidence blooming, Williams now gets his shot at the Gators, in the city where his play first caught South Carolina's eye.

 

More pre-tip reads as South Carolina prepares for reptilian warfare in Gainesville:

 

Stopping the Rain:  Very little has changed since the Gamecocks and Gators met January 14.  Florida still leads the nation in Adjusted Offensive Efficiency, and ranks second in Effective Field Goal %  (57.2%).   The Gators share the ball, take care of the ball, and ultimately, bury opponents under an avalanche of threes.  The Gators have a lethal combination of shooting a high percentage from three, while also attempting a high volume of three-pointers.  Florida ranks 7th in the nation in 3pt. FG% (40.8%), while ranking 5th in the nation in 3PA/FGA (44.3%). 

 

In fact, Florida could be on the verge of history:  in the last 10 years, no team from a major conference has finished in the top 10 nationally in both 3pt.% and 3PA/FGA.

 

Statistic                  Percentage                           NCAA Rank

3pt. FG%                40.8                                        7th

3PA/FGA                44.3                                        5th

 

 

Florida 3.jpgAs South Carolina holds firm in its 2-3 matchup zone, Darrin Horn addressed how Carolina can better defend Florida's three-point gunning.  The Gators converted 12 of 24 three-pointers in their January 14 meeting.

 

"The thing we've got to do, which hurt us in the first game, is to eliminate some of the easy ones that come off our mistakes," Horn said.

 

Look for Florida junior Kenny Boynton (left - #1) to seek his shot vs. Carolina.

 

One person who might look to break out:  junior guard Kenny Boynton.  The Gators' leading scorer (17.2 ppg) was held to a season-low 2 points in Florida's last game, a 69-57 win over Mississippi State.  Since knocking down 4 of 7 three-pointers vs. Carolina, Boynton has only made 4 of his last 17.

 

Board Control:   Why does Florida have a probable first-round draft pick, 6'9," 250-pound center Patric Young, coming off the bench?  Ankle tendonitis has forced Florida head coach Billy Donovan to bide Young's minutes. 

 

Patric Young Rebound.jpgWith leading rebounder Patric Young (#4) slowed by an ankle injury, can the Gamecocks take advantage of Florida's smaller lineup?

 

As a result, the Gators have switched to a three-guard lineup, with 6'3" freshman Brad Beal joining 6'1" Boynton and 5'8" Erving Walker in the backcourt.  6'10" sophomore Erik Murphy plays outside-in in the mold of Chandler Parsons, leaving only 6'7" Will Yeguete as a committed, active rebounder. 

 

The Gamecocks are at their best when they offensive-rebound effectively.  Florida has been outrebounded -26 in its last two games, versus Ole Miss and Mississippi State.  Have the Gators left themselves vulnerable on the glass?  

 

Damien Leonard.jpegLeonard's Law:  Freshman Damien Leonard remains in the starting lineup, despite making only 3 of his last 19 three-pointers.  No one who watches the slender freshman doubts the purity of his form.  But Boynton, a former Gamecock guard himself, says Leonard needs to do a better job preparing himself before the ball arrives.

 

"For a kid who shoots the ball as well as he does, he doesn't always have great shot preparation habits.  Is he ready to shoot when the ball is coming his way?  Is he anticipating that next pass?  Or is the ball coming to him, and he's only then realizing that's he's the open man?"  Boynton said.

 

Shot mechanics haven't been the problem for freshman Damien Leonard (left).  Shot preparation has, according to assistant coach Mike Boynton.

 

That means being down, having both feet set, and both hands in a ready position.  Along with the mechanical, Leonard has an intangible working for him:  he saves his best games for Carolina's most towering opponents.  Against South Carolina's four highest-ranked opponents, Leonard has knocked down 41.7% of his threes.  That number drops to 28.8% for everyone else.

 

Damien Leonard 3-pointers

Opponent                             3pt. FGM/FGA

#1 UNC                                   5-11

#2 Ohio State                        2-6

#2 Kentucky                           3-6

#12 Florida                            0-0

                                                 10-24  (41.7%)

Rest of opponents                23-80  (28.8%)

 

Free Throws:  Malik Cooke's game-tying free throw against Ole Miss may have caromed off, but it shouldn't overshadow a strong foul-shooting year by the Gamecocks.  South Carolina has shot 70.6% as a team, 2nd-best in the SEC behind Alabama.  At this rate, they'll become the first Gamecock team to shoot higher than 70% at the free-throw line since the 1987-88 team shot 71.1%.

 

Wild Bill Free Throw.jpgSo after Carolina finished 11th, 12th, and 10th in the SEC in FT% the last three seasons, why hasn't its foul shooting drawn more publicity?  Perhaps it's because the Gamecocks rank 5th-worst in the nation with 14.8 FTA/game.  Combine that with South Carolina's slow-by-design style -- 331st nation in possessions/game -- and the Gamecocks haven't given themselves enough opportunities to showcase their foul shooting.  Look for players like Damontre Harris and Anthony Gill to generate more contact on offensive rebounds, instead of kicking out for three-pointers.

 

Even the heaviest - er, hardiest - of distractions hasn't bothered South Carolina at the FT line.

 

14.8 FTA/game  (340th NCAA) +  61.9 Possessions/Game  (331st NCAA) = Not enough FTA!

 

Cash In:  Getting to the free-throw line has been an important part of South Carolina's victories over Florida recently.  In 2010, Carolina converted 19 of 24 free throws in a 77-71 win.  In their 72-69 upset in Gainesville in 2011, the Gamecocks made 11 of 15 free throws.  Opportunities like that come scarcely against the Gators:  in the last two years, Florida ranked 340th and 342nd in the nation in fouls per game.

 

Short Turnaround:  As the Gamecocks embark on their first Thursday-Saturday turnaround in SEC play, perhaps they can take notes from Florida.  The Gators are 11-1 in Thursday-Saturday SEC turnarounds since 2010.

 

And Finally... The father of Florida guard Kenny Boynton is a Broward County Sheriffs Deputy.  He had a K-9 dog as a family pet growing up.

 

Now that we're prepared, we hope you are as well.  Our coverage begins at 8:30 p.m. EST on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network.  We'll see you then.

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