Hoops: Loss to Auburn Has Me Torn

Saturday’s loss to Auburn has me torn.  On one hand I’m thinking:

Is Darrin Horn just not a good coach? I know, I know, he didn’t shoot 7-33 from three-point range or get pounded on the boards, his players did.  He was the same coach in today’s loss to Auburn as he was in surprising victories over Vandy and Florida.

But today might be the worst game he has coached at South Carolina.  The player rotation was what struck me as most bizarre.

– Damontre Harris comes out of the gates hitting nice jumpers on the first two possessions of the game, and winds up playing only nine minutes and taking one more shot.  Why was he on the bench so much?

– Stephen Spinella showed over and over why he should be the absolute last guy off the bench, but somehow was allowed to log twelve minutes and miss all five of his shots.   Why wasn’t he on the bench more?

– Johndre Jefferson, honest to goodness, I forgot he was on the team until he showed up in the second half.  But by the time he arrived playing solid interior defense where there previously had been none, it was too late.  The way we were getting destroyed around the basket, why did it take so long to get him in there?  We may not have seen him at all if Malik Cooke hadn’t been T’d up.

The loss of Lakeem Jackson today just seemed to throw Horn’s entire coaching strategy off.  Jackson is a nice piece, but we shouldn’t have missed him as much as we did.  I just can’t remember a Carolina basketball game in which I kept looking at the floor and then the bench and then the floor again wondering what the heck Horn was thinking.

On the other hand:

What did you expect? This is a team that lost one of the top five players in school history from last year’s team, a team that despite upsetting #1 Kentucky was not very good.  The stars of this year’s team are a freshman point guard who doesn’t shoot all that well and still has trouble with control and decision-making at this level, and a senior who until this year has been a role player.  A good role player mind you, but a role player nonetheless.

The rest of the team is littered with freshmen and sophomores who are not game changers. My fingers are crossed that one of two of them may develop into that, but at this point they are far from it.  Brian Richardson has been in a shooting/confidence slump since the beginning of SEC play, and our two freshman big men, Harris and Slawson, combined for a whopping four points in 15 minutes of play on Saturday.  Tack on a transfer from Nevada and a JUCO transfer, and you can understand why we were picked sixth in the SEC East in the preseason.

I’ve seen several tweets and other comments about how it’s inexcusable we lost to a team that has so much less talent than us.  I find that laughable.  Look at our team from top to bottom and I think you’ll come to realize victories over Vanderbilt and Florida are the aberration, not a loss to Auburn.

So maybe Darrin Horn knows exactly what he’s doing, and a bad loss like Saturday’s is just part of the process.

And to that I say, after watching 30 years of Carolina basketball, I’m sick of the process.