Young players stepping into roles

South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn's young basketball team is learning more about itself every week. The Gamecocks pulled out a double-OT thriller over Western Kentucky Saturday.

South Carolina may be missing the big star it had last year in guard Devan Downey, but that doesn't mean the Gamecocks are without playmakers.

Guard Ramon Galloway keyed a road win over Western Kentucky, scoring seven of his 22 points in the second overtime of the 87-85 win.

A sophomore, Galloway came off the bench in each of South Carolina's first five games and was the team's second-leading scorer with better than 10 points a game.

The Gamecocks have demonstrated good balance in the early going.

Freshman Bruce Ellington leads the Gamecocks in scoring, assists and steals. He is joined in the backcourt by another freshman, Brian Richardson.

Richardson shot 43 percent on 3-pointers (10 of 23) through the first five games.

Returnees Sam Muldrow, Lakeem Jackson and Malik Cooke do the heavy lifting up front. Muldrow is the only senior; Cooke is a junior, Jackson a sophomore.

"We have a young team," coach Darrin Horn said. "We have zero experience except for Sam Muldrow."

In fact, Muldrow and Johndre Jefferson, who transferred in from junior college a year ago, are the only seniors on the roster.

NOTES, QUOTES

--Freshman G Bruce Ellington is living up to his billing playing point guard. Coach Darrin Horn sees him as a go-to guy.

"Anytime you have a special one at the point, you know you are going to get a shot, for sure," Horn said. "And you know defensively that you can keep somebody in front late when it counts, so to have him on the floor is huge."

--Horn returned to his alma mater when the Gamecocks visited Western Kentucky. He helped lead the Hilltoppers to the NCAA regional semifinals as a player in 1993, then took them back to the Sweet 16 as a coach in 2008.

KEEP AN EYE ON: The Gamecocks have demonstrated a fondness for the 3-pointer, averaging more than 23 attempts from behind the arc as a team. They are hitting 37.3 percent of them and as long as that success rate continues, they should be fine. But they need to work on their inside game to get ready for SEC play.

STRENGTHS: South Carolina has shown some unexpected depth in the early going. Horn is relying heavily on a nine-man rotation, but all but one player on the 11-man roster is averaging double-digit minutes.

WEAKNESSES: Shooting is somewhat iffy for the Gamecocks. They were shooting only 41.3 percent through the first five games and were under 40 percent from the field in three of them. They are hitting only 62 percent of their free throws as well.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Not only can they play, but they have tremendous heart, great toughness and pride, and that is what we want to build our program around." -- Coach Darrin Horn on sophomore Ramon Galloway and freshman Bruce Ellington.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

RECRUITING RETURNS: The Gamecocks added a couple of four-star prospects in November, signing G Damien Leonard and F Anthony Gill. Leonard is a 6-5 shooting guard out of Greenville, S.C. Gill is a 6-8 power forward from Charlotte, N.C.

DECEMBER OUTLOOK: The Gamecocks have the annual rivalry game with Clemson coming up Dec. 5 and later face their second Big Ten opponent of the season when they visit Ohio State on Dec. 18. They played at Michigan State earlier, losing 82-73.

ROSTER REPORT:

--G Ramon Galloway missed the entire preseason because of a foot injury and got off to a slow start, going 6 of 20 from the field in his first three games. But he has been 13 of 25 in the last two outings.

--Sophomore G Stephen Spinella followed up his first double-figure scoring game, 10 points in the loss at Michigan State, with a 15-point effort in the win over Radford. He was 6 of 7 from the field in that game.

--F Lakeem Jackson had hit seven free throws in a row heading into the game at Western Kentucky but was only 1 of 4 against the Hilltoppers.

--F Malik Cooke was third in the SEC in rebounding (9.4 rpg) through Nov. 28.

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