Liam Neeson is in almost every movie out of Hollywood these days, so why shouldn’t he branch out?
“I think he’s the actor from the movie, ‘Taken,’ ” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said of the star player of his next opponent. “We should all hire the guy from the other country that says, ‘Good luck.’ ”
Martin was answering a question on how to defend Ole Miss sharpshooter Stefan Moody, the SEC’s leading scorer at 24.3 points per game. Martin outlined a few things the No. 24 Gamecocks would try to do, but made it clear there isn’t some kind of revolutionary defense that will stop Moody from scoring.
“He’s impossible to contain,” Martin said. “Everybody tries and it’s still 25 points every single night.”
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The Gamecocks dropped five spots in the Top 25 after their first loss last week, and are still trying to prove themselves in the national eyes. Despite their 16-1 record, many couldn’t wait to chime in with talk of “fluke” and “soft” after their first loss.
So the Gamecocks head back on the road for two games this week, knowing one win or hopefully two silences some of the doubt and keeps them in the top half of the SEC. A victory this week equals the program’s high of road SEC wins since 2009-10 (two) and the overall win total of last season.
The journey starts with trying to slow down Moody, who leads an experienced group of Rebels in their brand-new home, The Pavilion at Ole Miss.
“He’s gonna score,” junior Duane Notice said. “At the end of the day, he scores 25 a game. I think if we kind of limit his easier looks, we’ll be able to slow him down.”
Martin will try to disrupt Moody’s looks with P.J. Dozier on defense, the 6-foot-7 freshman’s long arms able to take away of the open space. Like Auburn’s Kareem Canty, Moody doesn’t need much room to shoot.
“I think with a guy like that, a very prolific scorer, especially in our league or basketball, period, you just got to throw as many bodies on him as you can,” Notice said. “Use length to disturb him.”
Martin has seen Moody’s type before. A longtime crony of Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy, Martin watched how Kennedy develop his offense. It was designed to keep the ball in the best scorer’s hands as much as possible, and began at Cincinnati with a familiar name to USC – Devan Downey.
That channeled into Chris Warren, Marshall Henderson and Moody at Ole Miss. Moody struck Martin as a higher-jumping version of Jacob Pullen, who he had at Kansas State, and D.J. Augustin, who he faced at Texas.
“He’s fearless,” Martin said. “Andy has an incredible ability to keep the ball in the hands of the right guy, and get him shots. The part with Moody that you can’t do -- you can’t put him on the line. But he gets to the line 12 times a game.”
USC has to try to slow him down as much as possible. Limiting the Rebels’ transition game will help – the Gamecocks were roasted by Alabama and Mizzou on fast breaks. When USC is in its half-court defense and defending ball screens, it’s good.
When it chucks up first-look 3-pointers that turn into long rebounds, it’s trouble.
“You can’t guard him small, because he’s just going to jump over the top and shoot it, so you’ve got to put some kind of length on him,” Martin said. “And then you have to be extremely disciplined to keep him in front of you and make him shoot over defense. That way, you’re not fouling him.”
Neeson found his daughter in ‘Taken.’ The Gamecocks know it was just a movie.
Yet if they find a way to keep Moody from his 25, their script gets re-written from a national perspective.
NOTE: Sophomore Marcus Stroman was cleared to practice on Monday after missing the last game with a concussion. His playing status for Tuesday was dependent on how he felt after practice.
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No. 24 South Carolina at Ole Miss
When: 7 p.m. Tuesday
Where: The Pavilion at Ole Miss, Oxford, Miss.
TV: SEC Network
Tickets: Available at the box office
No. 24 South Carolina (16-1, 3-1 SEC) at Ole Miss (12-5, 2-3)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 Fr. (7.6 ppg, 3.6 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Jr. (12.5 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 5.4 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg); C Laimonas Chatkevicius 6-11 Sr. (10.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Ole Miss’ probable starters: G Stefan Moody 5-10 Sr. (24.3 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Rasheed Brooks 6-5 Jr. (8.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg); F Sebastian Saiz 6-9 Jr. (12.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg); F Tomasz Gielo 6-9 Sr. (8.1 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Anthony Perez 6-9 Sr. (5.7 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
Next game: The Gamecocks tip off at Tennessee at noon on Saturday.