Young Gamecocks fit Horn's style

Beginning his third season as the coach at the University of South Carolina, Darrin Horn finally has a team molded in his own image. Unfortunately, although talented, the team is young and inexperienced. With a team featuring nine freshmen and a junior playing the first time with the squad after transferring in, the team little experience.

While picked to finish last in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division, the Gamecocks have played surprisingly well early this season. They have won seven of their first eight games, with the only loss a nine-point road decision to a then second ranked Michigan State squad.

Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington is the only player scoring in double figures at 13.8 points per game. He also leads the team in assists with four per game. Senior Sam Muldrow mans the middle for the fourth straight season and is averaging 9.5 points, 6.3 rebounds and has a team-leading 19 blocked shots through eight games.

The team has done a good job playing in Horn's fast-paced, up and down, press all over the floor attack. Sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson leads the team in steals and is second in scoring at 9.8 points. Sophomore Ramon Galloway and freshman Brian Richardson have manned the shooting guard slot with averages of 9.0 and 8.5 points respectively. Junior Malik Cooke, a transfer from Nevada, leads the team in rebounds (7.8 rpg) and is scoring 9.4 points.


--Many wondered how USC would replace all everything point guard Devan Downey. Freshman Bruce Ellington has been impressive early, adeptly running the Gamecocks up-tempo attack. He has displayed an ability to both make big shots and distribute the basketball. He must cut down on his turnovers, however.

--2G Ramon Galloway was eased into the lineup slowly after suffering a foot injury in the preseason. Although he has yet to start a game he has not only split time with freshman Brian Richardson, but served as a relief man for Ellington at the point. He is fourth on the team in scoring at nine points per game.

PLAYER TO WATCH: If the Gamecocks are going to become the surprise team in the SEC this season, senior center Sam Muldrow will have to continue step up as he has in the last two games. In previous seasons he has enjoyed being a supporting performer to Downey. This year he must be more. The team will have a hard time winning games when he disappears. A good sign is he has played his best in USC's most recent encounters.

KEY CONFERENCE GAME: Jan. 12 at Alabama -- If the Gamecocks are to make it into the post season they must defeat teams that appear to be of a like talent level. The first squad on that list is the Crimson Tide. Considering how young and inexperienced USC is, an early road win against Alabama would be invaluable.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're starting to see some growth and maturity in this team. That's good. But the good news is we have a lot of room to keep getting better, as well. I like where this team is, but we have to keep getting better." -- USC Coach Darrin Horn.


2009-2010 CONFERENCE RECORD: 6-10, fifth in SEC East.

LINEUP BREAKDOWN: USC's ability to aggressively press all over the court and force tempo is an advantage over Darrin Horn's first two seasons with the Gamecocks when they attempted that style of play, but consistently got burned on the defensive end. Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington has proven to be an effective leader and guy who doesn't mind being in the limelight and taking the big shot. He must cut down on turnovers, however.

Senior center Sam Muldrow has come on strong in recent games, while sophomore Lakeem Jackson and junior Malik Cooke have been solid as swing men. Freshman Brian Richardson, a shooting guard, has been consistent from long range.

The team out-rebounded all but one of the first eight teams it faced, using the team approach as no one is averaging more than 7.8 per game. USC has also been solid from long range, making 37.3 percent of its 3-point attempts. It continues to struggle from the free throw line, however, where it is hitting on a paltry 61.2 percent.

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