The Buckeyes are in South Carolina this weekend to face the Gamecocks for their second of two away games for the non-conference season. Let’s take a look.
|School:||University of South Carolina|
|Location:||Columbia, South Carolina|
|Stadium:||Colonial Life Arena|
|Head Coach:||Darrin Horn|
South Carolina has had a relatively mediocre season thus far in Darrin Horn’s 4th year. While they’ve managed to pick up a win against rival Clemson about two weeks ago, they’ve struggled in games against Providence, USC, North Carolina, Tennessee State, and Elon. All five of those games came up as losses for the Gamecocks.
However, things are looking up, as the Gamecocks are on a two game winning streak and get to stay at home for the remainder of the preseason. Unfortunately, they start their conference slate with the toughest game possible – at Kentucky. Thankfully, things can only improve from there.The Gamecocks play a particularly unusual style of basketball. You may recall from last season that South Carolina ran a four guard, one forward lineup that stressed speed and quickness. They also played an unfortunately sloppy brand of basketball all season en route to a 14-16 finish.
That’s all changed this year. Horn has come out swinging with a one guard, four forward lineup that stresses a high scoring guard as the 6-man. The switch has allowed him to present a bigger team (though his tallest starter is still only 6-9) to help deal with the ever taller guards present in the division 1 game. His forwards are also light, allowing him to keep his up-tempo, high energy style.
Leading the way is senior swing forward Malik Cooke (6-6, 213). Cooke is the only player on the team to average double figures in scoring and is the go-to guy when things are going rough. He shoots reasonably well from the outside at 37.5% but much prefers to take his game inside with over 77% of his shot attempts coming beneath the arc. He’s not going to blow you away with his numbers, but he is someone you need to keep your eyes on.
Battling Sullinger down low will be sophomore forward Damontre Harris (6-9, 214) and freshman forward Anthony Gill (6-8, 232). Both are underweight for their position, particularly in taking on 280 pound Sullinger. Both are capable scorers and rebounders averaging more than 6 points and 5 rebounds per game each, and will give toUSC solid production through the game.
|Lenzelle Smith Jr.||10||21||4.6||4.5||2.1||1.7||0||1.2||0.53||0.3||0.36|
It will be interesting to see how South Carolina tries to handle Deshaun Thomas, who is suddenly a serious scoring threat, and Jared Sullinger at the same time. This is going to be a serious problem for a lot of teams in the future. This dynamic down low, now that it’s starting to get going, may allow Craft, Smith, and Buford enough space to finally get their shots going. It will also help Sam Thompson, who is reportedly supposed to get more time as the #2 shooting guard, get more comfortable in his role.
Matta is really scrambling to find a shooting threat on this team. With Buford, Craft, Smith, and Sibert all failing at long range shooting, it becomes imperative that some of the younger players step up into this role. Do not be surprised if you see some unusual rotations in the next few weeks as Matta attempts to find the hot hand. This could be the place that LaQuinton Ross manages to make his mark early for this team if he can recover from all the time he missed.
The Buckeyes will play the Gamecocks in Columbia, South Carolina on Saturday, December 17th at Noon. You’ll be able to see the game on ESPN.