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 seventh column, as he analyzes USC's split last week against Mississippi State and Arkansas, and then previews the Gamecocks' monumental clash against Kentucky this evening.

This past week I was disappointed like most Gamecock fans when we were unable to watch the game against Mississippi State. Then we had the Arkansas game at home that wasn't televised either. It's good that home tickets are getting harder to come by now, as that means the program is definitely going in the right direction and a buzz is being generated where people are really supporting and enjoying watching a good basketball team.

The bottom line is: Win and they will come. Even after a disappointing mid-week loss to a tough Mississippi State team, a nearly capacity crowd still came out to the Colonial Life Arena and supported the Gamecocks against Arkansas on Saturday. So calling the fans the "sixth man" has definitely proven to be a big factor for this team, as the Gamecocks are still undefeated at home in SEC play.

As I was looking back at the statistics against Arkansas, once again we were outrebounded badly, but out of the ten offensive rebounds we got, we converted seven of them which is not a bad percentage. One of the main keys to our victories throughout the season has been a fifth scorer stepping up, outside of Devan Downey, Zam Fredrick, Mike Holmes and Dominique Archie (the big four). Against the Razorbacks, it was Evka Baniulis who sparked the Gamecocks with 14 points off the bench. He shot the ball well, hitting four out of seven three point shots. That fifth unexpected scorer always makes up for one of the "big four" if one of them is off.

USC also shot a good percentage from the free throw line against Arkansas. It's surprising that as poorly as we have been shooting from the free throw line, up to this point it hasn't been a determining factor in many of our games. So as the season comes to an end, and we are trying to position ourselves for the SEC tournament - and possibly the "big dance" - the games are going to be tighter with more pressure. Thus, we are going to have to continue getting better from the free throw line.

Now heading into Wednesday's game against Kentucky, there hasn't been a bigger game for the Gamecocks this season. Both teams are 8-4 in conference play. We need to forget about the last win this year at Rupp Arena, that game is in the past. It is about now, it's about taking control of the SEC with a win. It's also about staying undefeated at home in SEC play, feeding off the crowd, and taking control of what you fought so hard this year for. This team is continuing to go against all the doubters who thought we were in transition with the hiring of a new coach.

Kentucky is so tough with Jodie Meeks running around everywhere and Patrick Patterson dominating inside. Meeks is one of the most well conditioned basketball players I've seen in a long time. He runs the floor well, and in the half-court set he is constantly moving and getting open despite whatever defenses the opposing teams try to throw at him.

I talked earlier about that fifth scorer stepping up, but against Kentucky we need solid play from everyone, especially the bench. Baniulis, Brandis Raley-Ross, and Austin Steed need to contribute on both ends of the floor, because Kentucky is going to try and pressure us and trap us to wear us down and make us turn the ball over. Historically, teams that like to pressure like USC typically don't like to get pressured themselves. Hopefully our veteran guards can handle it and make good decisions, attacking the pressure by being aggressive.

I don't want to look too far ahead, but our last four games are definitely favorable to us by playing our toughest opponents at home, then going to Vanderbilt this weekend and Georgia next weekend. If we take care of business on Wednesday night, the SEC Eastern Division can be ours and a bid to the NCAA's will be almost a given. Good luck!!!!!

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