The South Carolina Gamecocks (14-9 overall, 5-4 SEC) roll into Athens Saturday afternoon looking to complete their second straight season sweep of the Georgia Bulldogs Men’s Basketball team.
The ‘Cocks are coming off a 77-71 win over the Florida Gators, and are listed as a potential “bubble team” for NCAA tournament. They still have games left against Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Vanderbilt, so needless to say, they are really going to want to get this one against the Dawgs.
Carolina won the first match-up between these two teams in Columbia 78-77. It was a game in which Georgia held the lead for the majority of the night (the Dawgs actually had the lead for nearly 14 minutes in the second half), but Devon Downey took over in the game’s final minutes and finished up with 33 points.
Since the win over the Dawgs, Carolina has lost at Tennessee and won at home against the Gators (as mentioned above). Their offense still pretty much revolves around Downey, who is averaging 30.1 points per game in SEC play.
However, Downey has gotten more support on the scoring front from fellow guard Brandis Raley-Ross and forward Sam Muldrow. Over the past two games, Ross and Muldrow are averaging 16.0 and 11.0 points, respectively.
During the Gamecocks’ last two games, this trio has taken nearly 70% of the team’s field goal attempts. Ross has knocked down 7 of 20 three-point attempts over the last two games (his season average is 40.4%). Teams can sometimes lose track of where he is on the court because they get overly concerned with keeping track of Devan Downey.
Carolina is only 1-6 on the road this season, that lone win coming in their SEC opener at Auburn.
Keys to the Game
In the first half of the season Coach Mark Fox had his Bulldogs running an aggressive 1-2-2 zone with Travis Leslie up top, and I loved it. However, I am not as big of a fan of the version I have seen lately (like in the Auburn game). I don’t know if it’s a lack of focus or tired legs, but the Dawgs zone defense has broken down in the half court set and is giving teams way too many wide open looks.
The Dawgs need to come out and play hard-nosed man-to-man defense against the Gamecocks on Saturday. Carolina does not have better athletes than Georgia, so matching up with them should not be a problem. Georgia needs someone (Travis Leslie or EA?) to hound Downey and follow him everywhere he goes on the court.
Maybe mix in some of the zone periodically just to keep the ‘Cocks off-balanced.
The Big Payback
Trey Thompkins is 0-3 against South Carolina so far in his young career. In the last meeting, Thompkins only scored one field goal in the games final 8 minutes (and he missed a reverse lay-up that could have put Georgia ahead). Furthermore, Trey is coming off his worst performance of the year against Auburn, a game in which he fouled out while playing only 13 minutes.
The Dawgs need an All-SEC performance out of Thompkins on Saturday, and they especially need him on the court and scoring in the games closing minutes.
-If Travis Leslie puts up some good numbers against the ‘Cocks, he will probably be the leading candidate for this week’s “SEC Player of the Week” award (considering he already has 19 points & 17 rebounds to his name). Last game against USC, Leslie had 5 dunks…what’s the over/under on how many flushes Leslie gets on Saturday?
-Georgia is 10-3 this season in games played in Athens, GA.
-I’ll be heading up to Athens tomorrow for this one. Tip-off is at 4:00PM, and it would be great to see a packed-out Stegeman Colesium to welcome the team back.
-If you can’t make it, the game will be televised on Peachtree TV (channel 7 for all Comcast customers).