Have you seen the film Whiplash? It's a movie about a mentor who makes a pupil better not by being politically correct, but rather by being an anachronism. He's a jerk in the mode of Bob Knight, for example. The movie reminds one of South Carolina's Frank Martin in some ways. He's a coach who doesn't exude the Teddy Bear qualities of Sean Miller, John Calipari, or Coach K, and yet in today's present age, he's a proven coach at multiple locales. No one can doubt Martin's approach tonight in an upset of tournament-minded Ole Miss in a game with a late theatrical sequence. South Carolina has now won two SEC tournament games in two nights, is playing with confidence, and is looking to usurp every team in its way.
This game came down to some late-minute drama. With the score tied 57-54 Ole Miss' Jarvis Summers hit a three and was fouled. Summers made the free throw and pushed the lead to 58-57. Then, things got crazier ...
But first, Ole Miss, to their credit, did not play their best tonight. Ole Miss looked to use a 1-3-1 full-court trapping press, and fall back into a 2-3 zone, to slow South Carolina's offense. To Andy Kennedy's credit, that was the right call. South Carolina made several careless turnovers bringing the ball up the court, does not have a consistent outside shooter and is without any definitive offensive rebounders. Tactics accepted.
Unfortunately, Ole Miss was not able to produce any offense to balance their defensive success. Ole Miss might over-rely on Stefan Moody offensively, and tonight he went 3-for-13.The requirement for him to make shots hurt the rest of the team tonight. On top of that, Ole Miss had 18 turnovers, further compounding offensive issues. Not a formula for Ole Miss, previously averaging 73 points per game.
South Carolina, on the other hand, can only be described as scrappy, and some credit for Ole Miss' offensive performance should be given to Frank Martin's defense. The Gamecock players have taken on the personality of their coach, and hard play exceeds athletic deficiencies at times. Michael Carrera had a near-career game ranging from his mid-range jumper to his rebound tally. Sindarius Thornwell added critically important second half points despite not contributing in the first half.
Perhaps no single Gamecock contributed more in the moment than Tyrone Johnson. The senior from New Jersey iced the game when he was fouled shooting a three-pointer by LaDarius White with three seconds left. A mental mistake by Ole Miss, but Johnson capitalized.
Repercussions: South Carolina now faces Georgia tomorrow for their third game in three days. Georgia is a team that South Carolina has beaten twice this year, but beating a good team three teams in a year is always difficult; especially on weary legs. Ole Miss, meanwhile, sees it's March Madness hopes dim. Joe Lunardi sees the team competing in Dayton, Ohio, next week for the First Four with their loss tonight. Georgia may have also had its seeding effected by the outcome.