Nothin' But Rhett: Basketball Analysis

Nothin' But Rhett is GamecockAnthem.com's weekly column by former USC basketball player Joe Rhett, where he will share his expert insight and analysis on the Gamecock basketball team. Read inside for Rhett's fourth column, as he analyzes USC's key wins over Vanderbilt and Kentucky on the hardwood last week and takes a look ahead at the upcoming contests against Florida and Georgia.

After enjoying the biggest weekend in sports of the year, it's nice to say that South Carolina basketball was a part of that. The Gamecocks started the week off with a roller coaster win against Vanderbilt. During the first half of the game they couldn't miss, and they played well as a team. Carolina's pressure defense caused their inexperienced backcourt problems throughout the game. In the second half Vanderbilt narrowed the lead down, and once again Devon Downey made a timely floater in the lane to get the Gamecocks rolling on offense.

I like the way Coach Darrin Horn initiates their full-court pressure off made baskets. It starts with a long but athletic Dominique Archie on the ball, which makes it difficult for whoever is taking out the ball to throw over, then he follows the ball and tries to trap the first pass, preferably in the corners. Then if nothing happens out of that, the ball defender may try to turn the dribbler and trap out of that. Most good teams will recognize it and try to pass it up the court opposed to dribbling it up against the pressure.

Since Sam Muldrow's return, Horn has been using him on ball pressure along with Austin Steed, who has been quietly playing well inside. He's not the most athletic guy, but he is very smart and savvy around the basket. He finishes and passes the ball well on the interior.

As hard as I try not to talk about Devan Downey so much, he continues to do things that impress me more and more. This guy has to be one of the most exciting players to ever come through the University of South Carolina. He can make a difference on both sides of the ball, in a timely manner. Whenever the defense needs a stop, he comes up with a steal, and we've all seen the clutch baskets he continues to make on offense.

In the past, I have watched games that have been close for us and never really had a good feeling that we could win in the closing seconds. On Saturday against Kentucky, however, after we fought our way back in the game as Devan was in a one-four set and the clock ticking was down, I knew this kid was going to make that shot - and he did. After he made that shot, I like the poise that he showed heading to the bench, as emotional as he normally is, he told his teammates to calm down because it wasn't quite over yet with 3 seconds left. That shows the maturity in Devan as player.

I know there are lot of SEC games remaining, but I think after Saturday's game he became the frontrunner for SEC Player of the Year. He does more for his team than the likes of Jodie Meeks of Kentucky or a Nick Calathes of Florida.

On Tuesday night the Gamecocks will have a tough rematch against Florida in Gainesville. The Gators will definitely have revenge on their mind coming off another tough loss against Tennessee on Saturday. If the Gamecocks continue to ride this wave and be able to deal with another hostile crowd, though, and play with poise, we can pull off another upset Tuesday night.

On Saturday they will be catching a Georgia team that is in turmoil right now after firing their coach. That is one of the dumbest moves any institution can do is getting rid of a coach during the middle of a season, in my opinion. You're not only hurting the season more, first and foremost you're going to affect the players. These are young men who nine times out of ten cannot handle losing their coach in the middle of the season. Georgia knew they had problems before the season started so they should have made a move then, instead of pacifying him after making a run toward the end of the season last year.

So again, good luck this week Gamecocks. Keep on rolling.

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