Quick Facts about South Carolina
Location: Columbia, SC
Head Coach: Frank Martin (Overall Record: 29-38 in 3rd Season)
2013-14 Record: 11-20 (9-9 conference, 3-14 away)
2014-15 Record: 1-0
Last Game: 56-81 win over UNF
Last Matchup versus Baylor: 64-66 loss to the Bears in 2013
Last NCAA Tournament Appearance: 2004
11:00 AM CT, ESPN (College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon)
The Baylor Bears travel to Columbia, South Carolina to complete the home-and-home series with South Carolina begun last season. Baylor is coming off a surprisingly large win over McNeese State (39-80), but the quality of competition will surely increase with the Frank Martin-led Gamecocks next on the schedule.
South Carolina, coming off of a 25-point victory over the University of North Florida, focuses mainly on that which makes a Martin team: rebounds. The Bears will have their hands full against the Gamecocks’ front line, not because of their daunting height, but because of the sheer tenacity with which they pound the glass. Junior forward Mindaugas Kacinas finished with a team-high 11 boards against UNF. Complementing Kacinas, Sophomore 4/5 Demetrius Henry added 12 points in only 20 minutes, as Martin, similar to Coach Scott Drew last game, rotated each of his active players into the game.
Ty Johnson returns as a senior guard for Martin and is coming off of a season-ending foot injury suffered against Texas A&M on January 15, 2014. Johnson is a quick, versatile guard who, although limited in total games, finished with the third most assists and the sixth most points on the team at the conclusion of last season. Against UNF, Johnson posted a a game-high 12 points, but was restricted in his minutes due to a mild finger sprain, which Martin says should not hamper him in this game.
For Baylor’s defense, the zone rotations will have to be spot on, as the Gamecocks effectively broke down UNF’s 1-3-1 zone last game and abused the Osprey’s paint defense. Fans should expect to see a heavy reliance on physical defense this game, allowing for Motley, Gathers, and Deng to collapse easily on contested shots and secure the rebounds effectively.
Offensively for the Bears, Kenny Chery and Lester Medford have to set the tone from the start with the passing game. Crisp, clean passes are necessary against this Gamecock defense, which forced 15 turnovers against UNF. The perimeter passing was excellent against McNeese State and it must remain so in order to stop any potential of a Gamecock fast break taking over the game. For a team that is short on size, the Bears actually match up quite well with South Carolina, which is itself lacking a true seven-footer.
Baylor catches a break with the scheduling of this game, as the 11:00 AM CT start (12:00 PM ET in South Carolina) will likely limit the amount of students who are able to attend the match. That is not to say the home crowd will not have an effect, but for the first true road game of this young team, better conditions could not have been asked for, one would hope.
Players to Watch:
Baylor: Deng Deng
South Carolina: Ty Johnson (v. Kenny Chery and Lester Medford)
Final Score Prediction: 77-68, Baylor wins