Gamecocks Must Learn From Saturday's Loss

USC suffered a defining 74-53 loss to the Clemson Tigers on Saturday afternoon, but the 21-point loss was not the only sting of that set back. The Gamecocks now realize that without physical inside play, which is needed to deny second chance opportunities, they cannot compete against quality competition and expect to emerge victoriously.

With Tre Kelly weaving through the Tigers backcourt pressure, USC was able to create early transition baskets and fan pleasing dunks. However, in the half court sets, the Gamecocks could not consistently generate offense that sustained needed point production. Defensively, the home team failed to rotate to the open perimeter shooters, allowing good looks that resulted in 3-point shots made at the worst time for the Gamecocks. The two 3-point shots by reserve guard K. C. Rivers inside 1:03 remaining in the first half turned a one possession Tiger lead into a quick nine point advantage, 31-22, at the half. That halftime deficit presented a desperate situation for the Gamecocks starting the second half, rather than entering into the second period knowing that the game was well within reach. Similar inopportune three pointers were made by reserve forward, Julius Powell.

USC lacks depth and consistent perimeter shooting, as well as a lack of individual shot creation by any players other than the seasoned Kelly. The talented, but inexperienced Brandis Raley-Ross has shown promise in that area early in the season, but he struggled under the tremendous backcourt pressure placed by Clemson's Vernon Hamilton, Cliff Hammonds, and Rivers.

Then to add insult to first half injury, James Mays dominated the post in the second half after getting plenty of rest in the first half due to foul trouble. Sam Perry and Trevor Booker, likewise were too physical and athletic for the weaker USC frontline. The result, Clemson grabbed more offensive rebounds (21) than USC's defensive rebounds (18), eventually out-rebounding the Gamecocks 45-30 and gaining 13 more shots. With no pressure in sight in the second half, the Tigers improved at the free throw line in the second half, going from a familiar 50% to 77% in the final stanza to guarantee an easy victory. Clemson allowed nine players to enter the game for significant minutes and effective productivity, versus six for USC, and sadly, not all of those were productive.

The message from this game is clear. The Gamecocks need more effort on the boards, more transition opportunities, faster rotation on the pass defensively, and more overall team effort to come close to competing with quality ball teams. This season hinges on drastic improvement in a hurry, as it only gets tougher after the holidays. Hopefully the remaining seven non-conference games will allow the Gamecocks to find the effort necessary to offset the clearly defined deficiencies. Basketball is 50% talent, 30% effort, 15% strategy and 5% luck. Next up, the Gamecocks will play host to a talented and well-coached College of Charleston squad. Let's look for the effort to increase on Tuesday night.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories