Duke is back … on campus.
The No. 2 seed Blue Devils became the second victim of No. 7 seed South Carolina’s home court advantage, losing 88-81 as the Gamecocks continued their insane offensive explosion during this tournament.
And I’m not exaggerating when I say that.
South Carolina’s issue throughout the season, particularly down the stretch, was that they just were not able to score. They ranked 136th nationally in offensive efficiency. Their effective field goal percentage this season, including Friday’s 93-point outburst against Marquette, was 47.1 percent, which was good for 307th nationally. The Gamecocks lost six of their last nine games prior to the start of the NCAA tournament, and in five of those six losses, South Carolina scored less than 1.00 points-per-possession, including a four-overtime loss against Alabama where they managed all of 86 points.
If those numbers are a lot for you, this is really: South Carolina is an elite defensive team that had their shot at an SEC regular season title done in by the fact that they, quite simply, could not score.
Then they put up 93 points on Marquette in the first round of the tournament.
Then they put up 88 points on Duke, including a ridiculous 65 points in the second half. There were ten games this season where South Carolina didn’t manage to score more 65 points, and they won five of them.
But that still doesn’t really tell the whole story. South Carolina shot 71.4 percent from the floor in the second half, making 18 of their first 24 shots. Their effective field goal percentage was 85.7 percent. They shot 21-for-23 from the free throw line, a crisp 91.3 percent for a team that made just 69.2 percent of their free throws on the season.
It was incredible, it was unpredictable and it’s exactly the kind of performance that the Gamecocks needed to make a statement.
Because here’s the truth: this team guards well enough to win a national title. They really do. And if they are going to score the way that they scored this weekend, South Carolina there’s no reason that Frank Martin’s club can’t find their way through what’s left of the East Region and get to a Final Four.