Mayo leads Trojans past Gamecocks
Carolina held the lead early, but a 12-6 run beginning at the 16:00 minute mark put the Trojans ahead to stay. The Trojans were able to make the run by getting the Gamecocks into a half-court game. SC Coach Tim Floyd countered Carolina's speed by starting four guards alongside forward Taj Gibson. Compounding the problem, Carolina struggled in the half-court, shooting just 31.3% in the first half.
"We were guilty [of] very questionable shot selection," said Dave Odom. "We took some ill-advised shots, and some of them led to run outs on the other end. When they lay the ball up without your defense having a chance to guard them, it really takes the steam out of you."
SC was able to execute in the half-court, and more importantly, they were able to get into the open-court when the Gamecocks could not. The Trojans had more fast break points, 21-13, and had 20 assists to Carolina's 8. For the first time in garnet and black, Devan Downey was unable to score at will. He finished with 15 points on just 5-18 shooting and had 4 assists.
"It seemed like we were right there to make some inside baskets, and we missed a number of them," Odom said. "We're going to do a lot of work on our half-court offense. We didn't execute that well at all tonight. We ended up taking a lot of one-on-one jumpers."
"We sent four guards back on defense because they are such a great offensive transition team," said Floyd. "We just got ahead of the ball tonight and got a chance to guard their penetration and kicks."
The biggest concern for Odom entering the game was Carolina's interior defense. The Gamecocks, who had been outmanned in both their first two games, did a lot more to hold their own. The Trojans had just one more rebound than the Gamecocks, 40-39, but outscored Carolina in the paint 36-20. Gibson scored just 8 points to go with 8 rebounds, but made his presence felt on defense, with 4 blocks.
"We got a solid night from Taj," said Floyd. "Even though his numbers weren't great on the offensive end, I thought he was a real presence underneath the basket. He was great in the help to Downey."
The Gamecocks rallied in the second half behind three point shooting and sophomore Brandis Raley-Ross. The Gamecocks cut their deficit to 6 on several different occasions, but could never get over that hump. Raley Ross tied his career-high with 18 points, all in the second half. After shooting 2-11 from behind the arc in the first half, Carolina shot 5-7 in the second.
"I think he just relaxed," Odom said. "He looked extremely tight to me to begin the game, almost unsure of him. Sometimes when you get down 10-12 points like that you have a tendency to relax and you end up making shots that you wouldn't even take early in the game. He gave us a chance to really get in the game."
- Dominique Archie led the Gamecocks with 20 points and 7 rebounds, including 17 points in the second half.
- Sam Muldrow scored 2 points off the bench, the only bench points for the Gamecocks in the game. Muldrow also had 7 rebounds, and has had at least 7 boards in all three games this season.
- O.J. Mayo led the Trojans with 29 points, while Daniel Hackett had 22 points and 10 assists.
The crowd of 16,620 was the most enthusiastic crowd at the Colonial Center in a long time.
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