South Carolina working to shake shooting woes
COLUMBIA -- Darrin Horn figured before the season that his South Carolina basketball team would not be an explosive offensive group.
"We knew we would have some challenges coming in because of our inexperience, because we knew we didn't have a guy on the wing that could just go get a basket, because our post guys are developing into guys that can catch and finish inside," he said. "Honestly, did we think it would be what it is now, where we put up 48 in a game where we felt like we got pretty good shots?"
He paused for only a moment before answering his own question.
"No, I didn't," he said.
But that is the reality Horn had to face in Wednesday's 59-48 loss at Vanderbilt, which dropped the Gamecocks to 2-11 in the Southeastern Conference entering today's home game against Tennessee. USC limited Vanderbilt to 38.5-percent shooting, but the Gamecocks made just 18 of 55 shots -- 32.7 percent.
USC is now shooting 38.3 percent in conference play -- 10th in the 12-team league. The Gamecocks' overall field goal percentage (40.7) ranks 293rd of 338 teams nationally. For as poorly as they shot Wednesday, they've had three games this season with a lower percentage.
Two games earlier, USC played strong defense in a win over Georgia, holding the Bulldogs to 35.1 percent. They left Vanderbilt having put on what Horn called a "phenomenal defensive performance" -- the Commodores are a stronger offensive team than Georgia -- but they could only shake their heads at how their inability to make open shots resulted in yet another loss.
"That's pretty much what we've been focusing on all year, just trying to put everything together," said wing player Malik Cooke, USC's only senior. "It was pretty frustrating."
Cooke shot 3 of 10 and scored eight points at Vanderbilt. Freshman shooting guard Damien Leonard was 4 of 15, including 2 of 10 on 3-pointers, for 10 points. USC's three primary forwards -- RJ Slawson, Anthony Gill and Damontre Harris -- had zero, two and six points, and combined to take just eight shots, four of which they made.
"You can't win games when you score 48 points," Horn said. "We've got to find a way to get some more easy baskets by getting out in transition, getting to the offensive glass. And guys that are capable of making plays need to make those plays, whether it's finishing around the basket or shooters making open shots."
Horn didn't have a problem with the shot selection at Vanderbilt - just the results of the shots.
"There were a bunch of really good open shots that we need to make," he said. "It's really that simple. We had a couple around the basket from guys that either need to finish or get fouled. And that didn't happen. We're not going to put up 80 points. But just a couple of those from each guy puts you in the 60 range and gives you an opportunity, if you guard the way we did the other night, to win."
USC lost 69-57 at Tennessee earlier this month partly because Harris and Gill combined to shoot 1 of 13 and score three points, despite USC doing "a good job of getting the ball inside," Horn said.
"We don't need (the post) guys to get 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds) or shoot 60 percent," he said. "But we've got to do better than we're doing on that end."