Don't Blame The Coaches On This One

On the heels of the Gamecock heartbreaking 61-56 overtime loss to the Mississippi State Bulldogs, many critics will say, "What were the coaches thinking? Why didn't they……." Duane Everett brings a coach's perspective on Saturday's game.

GamecockAnthem basketball analyst Duane Everett took his South Carolina AAU team to the national championship. He can also be heard on ESPN Columbia's "The Sports Drive with RT" each week.

Save the comments, criticisms and second guessing. This was a players' loss and nothing else. After scraping and clawing their way to a very ugly but exciting 3-point lead with 6.1 seconds to go, the seasoned South Carolina players had only one fundamental thing to do to end the "100th Year Celebration" with a win: play fundamental defense and come away with a win.

What does this mean? Dig in. Remember defensive drills. Get low. Move your feet quickly. Stay in front of the ball handler, and communicate with your team mates. If all else fails and the ball handler is going to beat you and get on the edge, foul him in the backcourt where there is no chance for a mistaken foul of a three point shooter. In the closing seconds of a ball game where the 3-point fundamental rule is don't foul a three point shooter and don't foul an airbourne shooter inside the 3 point arch, one has to play close hard defense on the ball handler and the defensive players positioning themselves on the 3-point arch. They are the only ones who can hurt you. We know the story.

The ball gets past half court, Jamont Gordon finds Ben Hansborough and he is fouled by Evka Banulius while shooting a 3-pointer, he makes all three free throws and the Bulldogs go on to win in overtime.

Now, here is what really happened, after fighting hard to keep the game close and in reach for a win, the Gamecocks found themselves up 48-47 with 17 seconds remaining; with Devan Downey at the line, he hit the first free throw and missed the second, score 49-47. Gordon then attempted a three pointer and missed. Charles Rhodes attempted an offensive stick back and the ball got lodged between the rim and backboard.

Result: "held ball," possession arrow to the Gamecocks. The ensuing inbounds pass was forced to Banulius, who dribbled into the front court before being fouled with 6.1 seconds remaining. Two foul shots were awarded, and the heralded 3-point shooter quickly missed the first badly off the back flange of the rim, then concentrated and made the next, score 50-47.

After a timeout, the Bulldogs inbounded the ball to Gordon defended by Dwayne Day, who was screened in the backcourt by Rhodes, with Mike Holmes defending, Holmes failed to alert Day to let him perhaps move over the screen or step out to keep the ball handle in front of a defender to help Day, so the ball was easily rushed into the front court. Devan Downey went to the center of the lane, rather follow his man Hansborough to the corner, where he got set to receive a pass from Gordon. Banulius saw the "skip pass" from the opposite wing and raced from the top of the key to attempt to defend and challenge the shot, went airbourne and swiped at the shot and caught the hand of Hansborough, and the rest is history. Between missed free throws due to lack of concentration, failed defensive communication and fundamental hedging/step outs, along with leaving known shooters open and swatting at shooters rather than remaining extended, the Gamecocks ended up fouling a 3-pointer shooter, a major "no-no" in a 17 seconds to go game.

Six individual fundamental mistakes resulted in a now titled "heartbreaking loss."

South Carolina players and fans have had to live with this too often and too many times. When will we ever learn from our mistakes and finally use more than our athletic ability, and begin to apply some basketball aptitude to finish the games we should win when leading late in the ballgame. This game is so much more that Slam Dunks, 3-point shots, crossovers, no-look passes and blocked shots. Maybe we could have consulted John Roche, Bobby Cremins, Bob Carver, George Felton, Carey Rich, Melvin Watson or B.J. Mckie, to name a few, who understood the depth of this game we call basketball to understand it's true essence.

The upside, athletically, Holmes has appeared to have figured out the level of effort necessary in practice and games to make a difference in Division I level play, his double-double, 12 points and 13 rebounds in 29 minutes, along with some key shots late by Downey, was the reason South Carolina was able to stay close to the Western Division leaders, after only shooting 31% from the field, including 19% from the arch and only 53% from the charity stripe.

Hope the team realizes, that they have played every team in the SEC, other than Tennessee, well enough to win. So with the emergence of Holmes and maybe add a sprinkle of fundamental intelligence this could be the necessary ingredients to make a surprise run in the SEC tournament. Either way, don't blame the coach, "he taught them better than that".

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