January 17, 2013
Yet down the stretch in Baton Rouge, the freshman from Anzoategui, Venezuela, outworked and outfoxed his more decorated counterpart. Carrera poured in 12 points and 7 rebounds - all while battling four fouls - over the final 5:00 of regulation and overtime, paving the way for an 82-73 Gamecocks victory.
"Michael played like a kid who didn't want to lose tonight," head coach Frank Martin said in our post-game interview.
Carrera's fearless, unflinching play at LSU inspired me to look up his "crunch time" statistics this year. I'll define "crunch time" as the final five minutes of regulation and overtime, with South Carolina leading or trailing by five points or less.
By that definition, Carolina has played six "crunch time" games this year (Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Missouri State, Manhattan, Mississippi State, Auburn, and LSU). In those games, Carrera has played 30:49 of a possible 45:00 of crunch time.
Michael Carrera - Final 5:00 of Regulation/Overtime, Gamecocks Up/Down by 5 pts.
FG's 9-14 (64.3%)
FT's 9-10 (90.0%)
Carrera has scored 28 points and 13 rebounds, while shooting 64% from the floor and 90% from the free-throw line. Those shooting and free-throw percentages far outpace his season averages of 48.6% FG and 82.4% FT. In the most nerve-grinding moments of a game, Carrera averages a staggering 36.3 points and 16.9 rebounds per 40 Minutes.
South Carolina may have more close games on the horizon - and their recent record suggests they will. But with a certain freshman on their side, a close game may be nothing to fear.