Close your eyes.
Close your eyes, think about the way you felt during the first half of the Chick-Fil-A bowl, and imagine that these things are happening against the 2011 (3-9) version of Duke football instead of the 2013 miracle version. And there's no second half comeback forthcoming.
On top of that, imagine that this beating is so unimportant on the national stage that it can only be watched online.
Now, open your eyes.
Welcome. Welcome to the current state of Texas A&M Basketball. Get comfortable, grab yourself a Fresca, and let's dissect the 28 point road loss to 0-6 South Carolina.
Would you believe me if I told you the Gamecocks jumped out to an 8-0 lead behind four Aggie turnovers and four Aggie missed field goals? Because they did. To our credit, we played some OK basketball for the middle portion of the half and kept the lead in single digits. Seven different players contributed during this run and it was the squad's only extended passage of decent play on both ends of the floor.
I say that because in the latter portion of the first half SC blew this sucker wide open. They kept going strong to the rim (and converting at the line when challenged), they kept hitting the offensive boards relentlessly, and they stuck a couple of dagger threes. Laimonas Chatkevicius (20 minutes; 12 points / 5-6 FG) and Brenton Williams (35 minutes; 18 points / 4-8 3PT / 3 steals) played well all night but were especially effective during this stretch.
When the smoke died down, the Aggies were down by 20. Halftime score: Texas A&M 21, South Carolina 41
A&M started the second half on fire. Strong takes by Jamal Jones (26 minutes; 9 points / 5 rebounds / 1-7 FG) and Shawn Smith (22 minutes; 9 points / 3 rebounds / 2-8 FG) were immediately followed by an Alex Caruso (26 minutes; 4 points / 2 assists / 5 turnovers) steal + breakaway. SC's Duane Notice (29 minutes; 19 points / 6-8 FG / 3 assists) scored to slow the momentum, but two Kourtney Roberson (18 minutes; 5 points / 2 rebounds / 4 turnovers) buckets - one on a putback and one on a nice feed by Jones - forced a Frank Martin timeout. A&M was down 13 and had a bit of life.
Then, coming out of the timeout SC turns the ball over again. Shawn Smith makes a great steal and heads in for the breakaway........
The Aggie bench is already on their feet.
And he misses.
The Gamecocks took that rebound and turned it into a three point play on the other end, and what should have been an 11 point deficit was now at 16. It was one of those days.
Fabyon Harris (23 minutes; 6 points / 2-3 3PT / 5 rebounds) and surprise starter Antwan Space (23 minutes; 7 points / 3 rebounds / 3-6 FG) hit a couple of buckets to nudge the SC lead closer to 10, but the Gamecocks responded with an extended 23-6 run that put this one to bed. Sindarius Thornwell (26 minutes; 19 points / 5-8 FG / 8-8 FT) was excellent down the stretch and we honestly had no answer for him or the entire South Carolina offense. I think that's what bothered me most. The offensive ineptitude I get (or am at least getting used to), but this team's success has been built on defensive intensity. Watching the Gamecocks torch us repeatedly was really demoralizing.
SC eventually pushed the lead to 32 and both benches played out the string. Final score: Texas A&M 52, South Carolina 80
The beating was comprehensive. It was a good beating. And thorough. There are about 20 different things I could harp on, but the following three stuck out.
We are not good at free throws, but our opponents haven't really made us pay. They did today. South Carolina was ruthless (26-32; 82%) from the line, and our free throw impotence (16-29; 55%) always seemed to kill us when we were trying to stall the momentum.
I know, I know.... it's a broken record. But the second chances were a huge issue. The Gamecocks had 11 offensive rebounds and a 33-25 overall advantage. The Aggies did rebound well once the game was out of hand, but the bulk of SC's ten offensive rebounds came in the first half.
Let's illustrate this point with three statements made by the ESPN3 color analyst. Only one of them is fake. Can you pick the outlier?
A) I tell ya what, that's better ball movement. And it's better people movement.
B) There's just no effort from Texas A&M tonight
C) And the Aggies lead.
The answer? C. We never led. Answer B was something you never want to hear about your team, but was true at the time it was spoken. And answer A? Well, that's ESPN3. Using phrases like "people movement" tends to land you in internet streamland.
We have a super-awesome GBH meetup planned on 2/22, and that's going to be sweet. But aside from that? I dunno. I'm not really sure if there is anything to look forward to. I'm a die-hard Houston Texans fan, and as such I have become unfortunately adept at identifying a runaway train of a season. And I think we have one on our hands. I would love to be wrong, but I fear we're in for a long February.
Any thoughts on the game? Did anyone find my thinly veiled Big Lebowski reference? Hit the comments below.