Gamecocks Show Proof of Potential
Trailing by 28 points early in the second half, USC mounted a strong comeback attempt against one of the country's top teams and a clear a candidate for the SEC title. Tre' Kelley, as usual, ignited the warrior-like charge with a barrage of nifty moves to the basket, NBA range three pointers, and some highlight film passes. Brandon Wallace seemed to control the glass at times, while Chad Gray and Dominique Archie displayed finishing moves that fans have been waiting for all season.
The 61 point second half performance was recorded as the best SEC half of basketball in South Carolina history. The first half was rated as perhaps one of the worst in the same tenure. So what was the difference? Hustle and effort that produced confidence - a confidence that could be seen in the eyes of Evka Baniulis, Bryce Sheldon, Dwayne Day and a recently struggling Brandis Raley Ross. Kelley clearly provided the template, attacking the highly favored Wildcats with reckless abandon. But the most obvious activity was the aggressiveness to the glass and to the floor for errant shots and loose balls, respectively.
The loss remains a loss, but the effort should carryover like a legitimate tattoo etched in the body and soul of each of the Gamecock players, reminding them that they can overcome various physical deficiencies with aggressive teamwork, ball protection, and "never-say-never" effort. The Gamecocks were so impressive that periodic looks to the Kentucky bench revealed a sense of panic, concern, and anxiety throughout the final 15 minutes of the game.
The USC coaching staff can only go back to the war-room and wonder did this team just find its fuel, or did this team just utilize and deplete its reserves? If this was a new burst of energy and effort for this USC squad, then the exciting frustrations of this season could be turning to an improbable late run on the SEC schedule. This would make sense as the recent Dave Odom teams have found ways to overachieve and defy observer expectations late in the season. Odom states, "Whenever you lose hope, that's a terrible thing." He may have found the motivating words for this team to allow Wallace and Kelley to graduate with positive senior season memories.
With the Georgia Bulldogs just hours away from being the test track for the new Gamecock basketball vehicle, the record setting second half against Kentucky has brought tremendous hope to any true fan who supports Gamecock basketball. Georgia is a well coached team with some very good players, but they do not compare to the leadership and personnel of the Wildcats, who themselves did not play bad in the game against USC.
Look for the Gamecocks to light up the Colonial Center and get back to the win column as they extend their effort in the second half earlier this week into the start of the game against Georgia. Floor General Kelly and Coach Odom will not miss this opportunity to keep this team believing in miracles, Post Season play.
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