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"Inside The Chart" with Andy Demetra (@GamecockRadio) - February 22, 2012

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February 22, 2012


Greetings from Nashville.  Pre-tip reads before the Gamecocks face the baseline benches, elevated floor, and Kevin Stallings' gym-piercing whistle at Vanderbilt:


SEC-ond Coming:  What did we learn from South Carolina's last meeting with Vanderbilt, a 67-57 Commodores win January 10?  Pay attention to these four factors Wednesday:


1.)     Vanderbilt's best rebounder may not be who you think:  If Vanderbilt personnel read like a high school yearbook....

-          Most powerful player?  Festus Ezeli. 

-          Most explosive leaper?  Jeffery Taylor, scary highlight-reel maker and the SEC's leading scorer in conference games (18.6).

-          Best rebounder?  Neither.


The most difficult Commodore to contain on the boards continues to be 6'7," 230-pound senior Lance Goulbourne.  In 2 of his last 3 games against South Carolina, Goulbourne pulled down 14 and 10 rebounds, respectively.  South Carolina will need every bit of its athleticism - R.J. Slawson's in particular - to prevent Goulbourne from factoring on missed shots. 


The Commodores have wanted their role players to pitch in more offensively, and Goulbourne has gone just 5 for his last 24 from the field (20.8%).  Carolina can't let that let Goulbourne generate his offense off rebounds, and emerge as a complementary scoring threat. 


  2.)   Trap vs. Vanderbilt.jpegThe Commodores can be turnover-prone if you make them.  South Carolina's 3/4-court press has harried Vanderbilt the last two seasons, forcing them into turnovers or speeding them up once they cross into the forecourt.  South Carolina forced 18 turnovers in their Jan. 10 meeting; the Commodores committed 20 turnovers in a 61-52 win over Georgia Sunday. 


A textbook trap of Vanderbilt's John Jenkins (left) Jan. 10.  The Gamecocks forced 18 Vandy turnovers in their first matchup. 


The Commodores have a strong mix of polished, athletic finesse players -- when they find their rhythm in Kevin Stallings' thick-playbook motion offense, they can be hard to stop.  South Carolina needs to make it a rock fight, and force Vanderbilt to beat them ugly.  With more turnovers, Carolina can exact its brand of raw, low-possession basketball, a style not befitting the freewheeling Commodores.


3.)     Vandy can be dangerous any night from three.  The numbers don't leave much to subtlety:  Vanderbilt leads the SEC in 3pt. FG% (40.2%).  South Carolina ranks last in 3pt. FG% defense (39.0%).  The Commodores drained buckets -- and the Gamecocks' wills - when they connected on 13 of 22 three-pointers in January.  Like Florida, Vanderbilt has three players who shoot better than 40% from three-point range (Taylor .496, John Jenkins .459, Brad Tinsley .423).  If the Gamecocks trap out of their zone, they must do so decisively, and make their rotations crisp.  Any waffling could lead to sluggish rotations - and dangerously open looks for a good-passing Vandy team.  If the Commodores want to beat the Gamecocks from three-point range, make them shoot challenged three-pointers.


4.)     john-jenkins.jpgDon't lose track of John Jenkins.  Vanderbilt's three-point sniper produced one of the more incredible stat lines in college basketball against Ole Miss last week.  The junior shooting guard scored a team-high 28 points... on just five field goal attempts.


John Jenkins vs. Ole Miss:  28 pts.  (5-5 FG,  4-4 3pt.,  12-15 FT)


Jenkins leads the SEC in scoring (20.1 ppg), and leads the nation in three-point field goals per game (3.8).  Vanderbilt weaves Jenkins relentlessly around screens - forward Steve Tchiengang is a particularly hard screener - hoping to give him enough daylight for his lightning-quick release.  Jenkins also loves the stepback jumper if a defender tries to slip underneath a screen.  The Gamecocks can't let him get in rhythm or shoot open transition three's.

Big Fes' vs. Big 'Tre:  Damontre Harris told me he considers Vanderbilt big man Festus Ezeli the strongest player he's faced.  His play against the Commodores' 6'11," 255-pound center will be critical Wednesday. 


Damontre Harris LSU.jpegEzeli ranked 7th in the nation last year in fouls drawn/40 minutes, inducing an average of 7.9 fouls per 40 minutes.  As we've seen all year, South Carolina's production inside ebbs and flows with Harris' foul situation.  He picked up his first career double-double (11 points, 10 rebounds) against Vanderbilt Jan. 10.  Can Harris be a wrecking ball against Ezeli, while also staying out of foul trouble?


Damontre Harris (left) vs. LSU.  He recorded his first career double-double against Vanderbilt Jan. 10.


"It's just about doing my work early in the play, pushing him off the block, and figuring out how the refs are going to call the game," Harris told me.


Bump In The Road:  South Carolina was scuttled by a season-low 5 offensive rebounds against LSU.  Despite that output, offensive rebounding remains South Carolina's biggest statistical strength.  The Gamecocks rank 30th in the nation in Offensive Rebounding % (36.8%), a figure which also leads the SEC.


That bodes well against Vanderbilt:  statistically speaking, Vanderbilt is one of the poorer teams in the nation at preventing offensive rebounds for its height.  The Commodores rank 11th in the nation in Average Height (players measure an average of 68.1").  However, the Commodores rank 7th in the SEC, and 170th nationally, in Offensive Rebound Percentage Defense.  Only Florida State and Syracuse have taller average heights, but worse percentages.


Vanderbilt                             NCAA Rank

Average Height                    11th

OReb % Defense                  170th


Watch This:  Need another confirmation of South Carolina's meat-grinder schedule?  Vanderbilt is one of three teams to put three players (Taylor, Jenkins, Ezeli) on the Wooden Award Preseason Watch List.  The other two?  North Carolina and Ohio State.


Now that we're prepared, we hope you are as well.  Our pre-game coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. EST on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network.  We'll see you in Nashville.

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