Gamecocks to play "small ball" against Hogs
Rather than trying to match Arkansas' size by putting both of his big men, Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow, on the court at the same time, Odom is going to try to use the Gamecocks' lack of size to his advantage. Evka Baniulis will move into the starting lineup at power forward, and Dominique Archie will slide over to center. With Devan Downey, Zam Fredrick and Dwayne Day in the backcourt, Carolina will be able to spread the floor with five shooters on the court. The move is a defensive sacrifice, but it should spark the struggling USC offense.
"That gives us the best ball-handling we can have," Odom explained. "It gives us the ability to shoot the ball with confidence at every position. It doesn't give us great rebounding, so we've got to rebound the ball with five guys."
The goal is to open space for Downey to penetrate and create. Neither Holmes nor Muldrow force teams to double the post when they have the ball, meaning defenses can stay put on the perimeter, and with Brandis Raley-Ross, who leads the nation in 3 point percentage, still hampered by a knee injury, there is not a player who demands attention from behind the arc. With the floor spread, Downey should be able to get into the lane and draw defenders to create open shots.
"Once the game settles into the half court level, shots do become harder to find because of size," Odom said. "Devan has amazed me at his ability to find open gaps, penetration, and get the ball to the rim cleanly and even make the shot. Early on I thought he was doing that too much, and his shots were getting blocked... then we're down [a man] in transition on the other end. I really talked to him about trying to eliminate that part: dribble penetrate and if you don't have a clear open layup and if they are closing on you that fast, dribble it out or find someone at the perimeter."
The smaller starting lineup does not mean that Holmes and Muldrow are gone from the rotation. Odom said he expects them to play minutes similar to those they have played all season. He praised both for how they have practiced, but noted that both freshmen are still adjusting to the size and strength of SEC competition, whereas in high school they were the biggest player on the court.
Odom went on to emphasize that the smaller lineup does not mean he is giving his team the green light to race up and down the court. He still wants the Gamecocks to control the tempo and play in the half court.
"Evka's not geared to that," said Odom. "This is a move for this particular game to get more ball handling and to shoot the ball when they're open from deep, as opposed to trying to challenge them inside."
However, when asked about slowing the tempo, Archie said he preferred to get out and run. He thinks the Gamecocks were at their best early in the season when they pushed the tempo more.
"I think we should go back to the way we were," said Archie. "The only problem with that was we tended to gamble. Early in the season [we got away with that]. Right now if you gamble and you miss they will make you pay."
The key to the lineup change is Archie, the sophomore forward. His combined ability to shoot from behind the arc and bang with bigger bodies in the paint is what allows Odom to go small. Although Archie will give up size to Arkansas center Steven Hill on defense, on offense the 7-foot Hill will have to chase the athletic Archie around the perimeter, rather than stand in the lane and block shots.
"I have to go harder to the offensive and defensive glass, and I have to guard the biggest guy on their team, but on the other hand he has to guard me too," Archie said. "I think I can take a huge advantage of it. I know I'm faster than [Hill]."
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