On paper the teams appeared very similar, but on the floor in the Bud Walton Arena Arkansas (14-12, 7-4) was the clear dominant team winning 92-79 after leading by as much as 21 points in the second half.
The game was relatively close in the first half with each team trading buckets during various series, but just before the half Arkansas guard, Marcus Britt, stripped Devan Downey near half court, while Downey was attempting to gain instructions from South Carolina Head Coach, Darrin Horn. Britt cruised in for the easy layup and extended the lead to 40-33 for the half. Coach Horn accepted the blame for a play change at the last minute that briefly allowed Britt to slide in for the steal.
With over 13,000 Razorbacks fans in attendance, the Hogs came out of the locker room and started a second half dunk-fest as aggressive defense and transition led to multiple dunks from run-outs, penetration & dishes and a few drop step.
The host team made an early second half 17-1 run that basically decided the fate of the Gamecocks at about the 14 minute mark. The South Carolina (14-11, 5-6) second half defense was literally nonexistent as point guard Courtney Fortson, ran the transition game to near perfection, muscling his way to 19 points, 9 rebounds, 8 assists and 4 steals. His steals often led to powerful finishes by Freshman Forward Marshawn Powell, 26 points, 8 rebounds and Senior Center Mike Washington 8 points, who also went over the 1,000 point total for his college career.
The Razorbacks of late had been receiving balanced scoring and it continued with guards Rotnei Clark 13 points (3-7 3-point) and Britt 12 points to round out the starter scoring. The Hogs' balanced offensive floor attack resulted in 30-55 shooting (54.5%) and attacking the paint led to 27-39 (75%) from the free throw line.
Powell stated during post game interviews that his offensive output was predicted by Fortson in the locker room prior to the game after reviewing and preparing for the match-ups.
The Gamecocks on the other hand were 31-69 (44.9%) and 6-12 (50%) from the line. Sam Muldrow had a career high 23 points, on 9-13 shooting, to go along with 8 rebounds. However, the team's power forward was 4-6 from long range and his perimeter approach resulted in only one trip to the free throw line (1-2).
The SEC leading scorer, Downey (28 points) was 11-28 from the field, 2-7 from long range with 7 assists and 4 steals. The only other significant scorer for the visitors was Brandis Raley-Ross with 16 points on 6-12 shooting (3-7 3-point). All three scored the majority of their points in the second half after the insurmountable lead was established by Arkansas.
The lack of defensive pressure and disruption to the Razorback guards, along with no answer for their penetration and power finishes led to the lopsided second half and disappointing loss for the Gamecocks.
Arkansas' Fortson was not totally sharp in the half court and on transition early as some sloppy play recorded 8 turnovers for the Razorback point guard, but USC countered that total with Downey's highest turnover total for the season with 8 mistakes on the night for the Cocks. Both teams had spots of sloppy play with a total of 38 turnovers, 20 belonging to Arkansas. For the second game in a row, the Gamecocks continued approach to perimeter scoring versus an opponent willing to play inside/out resulted in 30 fouls committed for the Cocks against only 16 for their opponents.
Head Coach John Pelphrey's team shot 36 free throws connecting on 27, while the 6-12 Gamecock total was a scoring difference of 21 points just at the free throw line. The win gives Arkansas a complete game led over Mississippi State (18-8, 6-5) in the West.
Next up for the Gamecocks, Tennessee (19-6, 7-4) in Columbia, SC Saturday before traveling to Lexington, Ky to take on the Kentucky (25-1, 10-1).
A former basketball player and coach with over a decade of national experience, who later founded player development programs before expanding his knowledge and experiences to media services and outlets, Duane "The Shot Doctor" Everett can be heard every weekday in Columbia as a host and analyst on ESPN Radio Columbia's "The Zone" on 93.1 FM from 3-6 p.m.
Other entries such as this one can be found on Everett's blog, "The Shot Doctor".
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