The Trojans got back on track with an easy road win over The Citadel, 74-47. The return of Daniel Hackett was a jolt that the team needed, and Kasey Cunningham gave the team some energy as well. OJ Mayo struggled through the first half, but had a solid second half in the win. The Citadel was not a very good team though. They're possibly the least talented team that USC will play all season.
Now the competition stiffens up as the Trojans travel to Columbia to face the South Carolina Gamecocks. Last season, South Carolina defeated the Trojans in overtime at the Galen Center to open the season. This season though, both teams are very different. Only two starters return for South Carolina, and one of them was a platoon starter.
Things To Know About The Gamecocks
South Carolina looks like they're going to rely on two transfers to take the bulk of their shots. Devan Downey is a point guard transfer from Cincinnati. He is a little guy who is lightning quick and can get into the lane. He has had an auspicious debut for the Gamecocks, averaging 17.5 points, nine assists, and only one and a half turnovers per game. How the Trojans defend him will be ahuge key.
Zam Frederick is a newcomer from Georgia Tech. He is only six feet tall as a shooting guard, but he's another quick guy, and he has no conscience when it comes to shooting. He is a streaky outside shooter. Brandis Raley-Ross played against SC last year, and took a lot of shots. This year, he is more of a complementary played, a third scorer of sorts.
In the frontcourt, the Gamecocks play either a tandem of two 6-7 forwards in Dominique Archie and freshman Mike Holmes, or they start 6-9 freshman Sam Muldrow ahead of Holmes, as they did against The Citadel. Muldrow leads the team in rebounding, so I expect that he'll get the start against SC and will defend Taj Gibson.
Dwayne Day is the guy who comes off the bench and gives the team scoring punch. He's not afraid to take three point shots. Evaldas Baniulis is your typical Euro 6-7 forward who loves to shoot threes. Chad Gray gives the team minutes in the frontcourt.
South Carolina is not a very big team. They are extremely small at guard, and Muldrow is their only regular player taller than 6-7. They will rely on quickness to beat SC. They harrassed South Carolina State and The Citadel into a mountain of turnovers, which doesn't bode well for an SC team that has not taken good care of the ball early. Dave Odom's teams play man to man defense, and this team likes to get out and run. They have played great defense so far, but against two poor opponents.
South Carolina is a penetration and dish team. They have hit a very high percentage of their three point shots, which means that they likely have got a lot of open looks. They also have 45 assists against 21 turnovers in two games, which also leads one to the conclusion that they get a lot of open looks from passes off the dribble. They averaged over 13 steals per game, which means that they are aggressive with their hands. They ran their first two opponents out of the gym with three pointers and fast break points.
The two keys to this game will be ball security and stopping dribble penetration. These are where the Gamecocks have made their bacon in their two wins. The Trojans should have a rebounding edge and a huge edge down low with Gibson being a mismatch for whoever plays against him. The Trojans should also be able to get a lot of open looks from behind the arc because of how small South Carolina is on the perimeter.
Still, I think the Gamecocks have the advantage. Not much is expected out of them this season in the SEC, but they still have SEC talent and are playing at home. Their strength (forcing turnovers) matches up with the Trojan's weakness early (taking care of the ball). SC's help defense will allow South Carolina to get some open shots outside, which are easier to make when you're at home. The crowd will be into this game, and the Trojans still have a lot of growing to do. USC will be competitive in this game and should keep it close, but it's a tough match-up for a young and developing team on the road.
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