Game #9-264: South Carolina State Bulldogs at South Carolina GamecocksJanuary 5, 2013 1:30 pm
In the past two seasons, I have seen 10 of the 12 Division I schools in South Carolina. The only schools I had yet to see were South Carolina and South Carolina State. The main reason I had yet to go to any Gamecock games is because Ian McCormick
has had all of their home games against teams below the Red Line well covered. The other reason being, it is Gamecock basketball. Why in the world would I ever want to watch that?
Despite that fact, I saw South Carolina (I refuse to call them the acronym the synonymous with Southern Cal) would be hosting South Carolina St in both team's last non-conference games. I also noticed Ian would be doing a Big South doubleheader that day meaning no one would be covering it. Lastly, I figured it would be best time to go up to Columbia since it would be last eligible game for the Gamecocks in TMM9.
I knew someone who would most likely be at the game and that was TMM8 all-star and TMM9 all-star-guest Gary Moore
. I contacted Gary and he said he would be there and had an extra ticket available. I thankfully accepted, but hope Gary gets to start using that extra seat as soon as possible for his usual play by play announcer, his son Matthew.
I met Gary at a place nearby Colonial Life Arena called the Thirsty Fellow, which I had heard good things about before, but had yet to been there. The food was really good and they provided a nice touch for me. We had to sit outside since it was already full inside, so my Miller Lite was delivered with a coozy to keep my hand from freezing. It is the little things like that which make me take notice of a place.
After making the short walk over to the arena, we were greeted with the expected light crowd; but the band was there, so the atmosphere was not all that bad. I did not know much about either team so Gary informed me that the Gamecocks would be without three of their best players. I saw this as a small glimmer of hope for the Bulldogs since the Gamecocks have struggled before with plenty of teams at home, even losing to Elon earlier this year.
My knowledge of South Carolina State was minimal as well, much of what I knew were from Ian's trips down to Orangeburg and Daniel Spewak's recap
of S.C. State and senior guard Khalif Toombs when they went for a guarantee game against Missouri.
This would be the final game of the Bulldogs' paycheck collection tour, as they were on a six-game losing streak that included losses to Maryland, Iowa and Clemson. Playing such a rough schedule had S.C. State ready for the Gamecocks in the early going. The Bulldogs opened with a 10-2 lead with some nice passing and finding Matthew Hezekiah down low for some easy scores.
South Carolina's defense seemed to be very soft in the paint and it was not helping that they could not get much to fall. The Gamecock guards were beating the Bulldogs off the dribble, but the play would usually end up in a kick out and a bricked jump shot and S.C. State was maintaining its lead at 18-11.
I was surprised how well the Bulldogs were playing, considering this is a team that went winless in the MEAC last year and was only 4-9 this season. They moved the ball well and were frequently finding the open man for a good look. The inability to finish their unselfish play put the Bulldogs in a rut. S.C. State missed a few gimmees and then gagged they ball away a few times to stall the offense. South Carolina outscored S.C. State 17-3 in something that I would not fully describe as a run, but more of slog since it took them 10 minutes to do it.
The pace and execution finally picked up in the last few minutes of the half. The teams started trading baskets, but South Carolina kept the pressure on and a tip-in at the buzzer from Mindaugas Kacinas gave the Gamecocks a 37-29 lead at the half.
The offenses continued their solid production in the second half, but a small spurt from the Gamecocks forced a Bulldog timeout. Going off of previous performances of S.C. State, I figured this would be the point where South Carolina would run away with the game. That would not be the case though as the lead hovered at around 8-12 points. Without the strong effort from Hezekiah, who ended up with 24 points and 14 boards, the Bulldogs would not have kept the game within striking distance.
The score was 59-53 at the under-eight media timeout giving S.C. State a real chance at the upset. Those hopes were quickly dashed after Brenton Williams had a three-point play and Brian Richardson sank a triple. The Bulldogs kept scoring, but the Gamecocks had an answer each time and ended up with an 11-point win.
I thanked Gary for the ticket as we headed our separate ways for our own personal doubleheaders. He was off to see Davidson host UNC-Greensboro while I was on my way to Charleston to see the The Citadel face off against Western Carolina.
It was good to check off all the teams from the Palmetto State in this matchup. South Carolina State seems to be a team that will not go winless in the MEAC again this year. They play the right way and Hezekiah will be strong going forward and hopefully the Bulldogs can have a much improved conference season this season.