Gamecocks fall to Clemson on hardwood
The game was reminiscent of the last time Carolina visited Littlejohn Coliseum, in 2005. In that meeting, Clemson used a pressure defense to force Carolina into mistakes and build an early lead. The Gamecocks never really got into that game, and lost by 19 points. This time, after falling behind by as much as 19, Carolina did make a couple of runs in the second half, but was never able to get closer than eight points.
"Clearly the story of the game was written in the first half," said Dave Odom. "They came out scorching. It kind of took the steam out of us early with the onslaught that they threw at us."
"Defensively, early on, we got the tempo where we wanted it," said Clemson coach Oliver Purnell. "We sped them up to where it affected their halfcourt offense, and we were able to get a working margin. They were in a chase mode after that."
The reason for Carolina's struggles was all over the stat sheet in the first half. Clemson made 10 free throws compared to the Gamecocks' nine attempts, only five of which went in. USC was just 1-8 from behind the arc, while Clemson was 5-12. The most glaring issue for the Gamecocks was that they had just two assists to go with eight turnovers. Devan Downey had the hardest time getting going, scoring 4 points to go with one assist and 4 turnovers, just the second time this season he had more than 3 turnovers in a game.
"We really only had one player [in the first half], Zam Fredrick, who was able to give us any offense at all," Odom said. "Everybody else seemed incapable or not able to do it. It's tough playing at this level without a total team performance. I think they tried, but they just didn't play well in the first half."
Zam Fredrick was the only Gamecock who could get anything going offensively in the first half, scoring 14 points, but in the second half, Downey and Brandis Raley-Ross found a rhythm and got the Gamecocks back into the game briefly. Raley-Ross once again did not start the game, but he started the second half and scored 11 quick points. Downey finally got his shot to fall, and Carolina used a 13-7 run to get within 9 points, 60-51. K.C. Rivers, who led Clemson with 24 points, answered with a long three pointer for Clemson, and it took Carolina six minutes to get the deficit back to single digits. At that point there was not enough time to get the win.
"A less experienced team could get rattled at that point," said Purnell. "I didn't think our guys at any point got rattled."
Another spurt got Carolina within 8 with 2:46 to play, but Downey missed a free throw that could have cut it to seven. Demontez Stitt, who finished with 13 points, got a layup on the other end, and a Gamecock turnover led to a dunk by Rivers, and Clemson's lead was secure.
"We were down an enormous number at halftime, and I think the pride element comes out at halftime," Odom said. "That's a late time for that to happen. That should have been part of everybody's effort early on. We missed that free throw and it just seemed to take that last gasp of air that we had out."
For the game, Fredrick finished with a career-high 28 points, but he did not have a lot of help. Raley-Ross did not score again after his 11 quick points to start the second half, and Downey finished with 19 points on 8-22 shooting, and four assists. He did not have any second half turnovers, though. Carolina was only outrebounded 42-36, a decent margin for a team that was outrebounded by Division III Guilford. For the game, the Tigers hit 19-23 free throws, more than Carolina's 16 attempts (with 9 makes).
"We did an outstanding job at the free throw line to hold them off," Purnell said. "We turned the ball over too much at the end, but the thing we did do was march to the line and converted."
"We're a team that can compete, but we're not good enough to win at this level," Odom conceded. "We've got to stand up and get better defensively, and get better on the rebounding. That's where we are right now."
Emotions ran high all game. Dominique Archie drew a technical foul in the first half when he protested a foul called against him. In the second half, Odom was called for a technical when he complained during a timeout. After a hard foul on a layup attempt by Fredrick, he and Terrence Oglesby were immediately pulled apart by teammates as they gave each other dirty looks. Such reactions were probably to be expected in a game which Odom said all week he wanted badly to win, although the Gamecocks did not always seem to share Odom's emotion.
"I hope not, [but] you'll have to ask them," he said. "They heard it enough over the last two days. Sometimes you can act like you have things under control as a player, and a coach, when in truth you need help."
- The referees called carrying 4 different times, two on each team, all in the first half. Carolina actually outscored Clemson 42-40 in the paint and 12-7 on second chance points, but was outscored 9-4 in fast break points.
- Fredrick's previous career high was 24, scored six days ago against George Mason.
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