The basketball team beat South Carolina 62-55 last night, lifting the Tigers out of the cellar, now occupied by the hapless Georgia Bulldogs. We can put some other teams in our dust and put some distance on Georgia when we play them on Saturday.
The keys to the game against South Carolina: free throws and rebounds. We were 14 of 14 in free throws. Incidentally, there wasn't a missed free throw all night, as South Carolina went 7 for 7. We outscored South Carolina by 7 from the line and didn't give away any points there. We out-rebounded South Carolina 37-25 according to ESPN's boxscore. According to Tigerbait's recap, the margin was 44-28 on the boards. Either way, we got a lot of rebounds, and that makes a big difference in a close game.
We won, amazingly, without shooting well from 3-point range and while committing 14 turnovers compared to the Gamecocks' four, but made up for it with dominating inside presence. Our forwards outscored USC's forwards 35-20, including Anthony Randolph continuing to dominate with 20 points.
I maintain that this is a team that can put it all together and do some things. It's too much to ask for a run to win the SEC tournament, but I do believe that if they play up to their abilities they will be a very tough out in the tourney. If we keep winning, we will build that momentum for the 2008-2009 season, when we look like we could be a very good team.
The 2008-2009 season will see us finally add a big body to the team who can out-muscle people. J'Mison Morgan is a highly regarded center prospect at 6'10" and 275 pounds and figures to be one of those guys who will come in and play immediately and be able to keep us from being out-muscled in the lane, which has been our most consistent problem this year, and in previous years whenever Big Baby Davis wasn't on the court. We've had a remarkable run of tall, skinny forwards lately, and players like Patrick Patterson have simply tossed them around like they were small children.
And let's not forget the biggest addition to next year's team: Tasmin Mitchell, who will replace Alex Farrer in the starting lineup and give us a very formidable starting five. What's more, for the first time in quite some time we will have a pretty solid bench with Alex Farrer, J'Mison Morgan, Terry Martin, Quentin Thornton, Garrett Green, and the other incoming freshmen. We could actually go 10 deep with solid players. I don't know when the last time that happened was.
Yes, we are below .500 this year, and will likely stay that way, but the future looks bright for this team.
There's also been a lot of football news in the last couple of days, but I felt like talking basketball today. We'll get into all the other stuff in the coming days.