Gamecocks trying to get back on track

The University of South Carolina found out the difficulty of winning Southeastern Conference games on the road as the young team dropped a 57-47 decision to Alabama on Jan. 12. The Gamecocks' shooting was as cold as the weather as they connected on a meager 28.6 percent of their 56 field goal attempts. It was the fewest points the team has scored this season.

With another road game coming against the University of Florida today, USC must find a way to earn easier shots. The team struggled to get open against an aggressive Crimson Tide defense, especially on the inside. Senior forward Sam Muldrow was as mediocre against Alabama as he was great in an upset win over Vanderbilt on Jan. 8.

Following a triple-double that included 10 blocked shots against the Commodores, Muldrow scored only four points against Alabama although he did manage nine rebounds and six blocks. He wasn't alone as the starting lineup scored only 19 points.

The Gamecocks continued to suffer from a problem that normally haunts young teams --inconsistency. The team, which is still searching for an identity, has the talent to defeat a top 25 team like Vanderbilt, yet can fail to show up against lesser opponents.

Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington, the team's leading scorer, has struggled with consistency as much as any player on the squad. Despite scoring 10 points against the Crimson Tide, he played a sub-par floor game. When he and Muldrow don't play well, the Gamecocks have virtually no chance of winning.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Senior forward Sam Muldrow leads the Gamecocks with 44 blocked shots with 16 coming in the Gamecocks last two games. Through games of Jan. 12, he was 34 away from breaking the school's career record of 249 which was set by Brandon Wallace. The team, which plays an aggressive, trapping defense, depends on his presence down low.


--Alabama coach Antonio Grant improved to 3-0 against USC coach Darrin Horn since both coaches have been with their current teams. In addition to holding the Gamecocks to 16 of 56 shooting, the Crimson Tide also out-rebounded them 41-36.

--Now starting three freshmen, Darrin Horn understands there will be ups and downs. Despite their collective youth, the first-year performers have already displayed improvement. Point guard Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks in scoring at 14.8 points and assists (3.9) through Jan. 8. The 5-9 point guard has also chipped in 3.6 rebounds. The other freshman starters -- 6-9 forward Damontre Harris and 6-5 shooting guard Brian Richardson -- are gaining confidence.

"I think the team has matured a little bit," said Horn. "The thing that comes the most with maturity and experience is understanding that things aren't always going to go right every time, but staying committed to what you're about and what gives you a chance to be good, you can be in position to have a chance to win."

--Junior forward Malik Cooke, playing in his first season with USC after transferring from Nevada, displayed his value to the team in its eight point win over Vanderbilt as he finished with eight points, 13 rebounds and a blocked shot, steal and assist.

"I thought Cooke did a nice job," said Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings. "I actually thought he was the guy that came in and impacted the game in the second half as much as anybody on the team. He played with good physicality."

--South Carolina continues to shoot well from 3-point range, hitting at a 36.4 percent clip through Jan. 8. That does not translated to the free throw line, however, where it is hitting at a 61.6 percent clip. No player is shooting better than 76.9 percent, which is the average of freshman guard Brian Richardson.



--at Florida, Jan 15.

KEY MATCHUPS: The Gamecocks split two games with Florida a year ago as each team won at home. USC must find a way to neutralize guards Erving Walker and Kenny Boynton, while competing inside against Vernon Macklin and Chandler Parsons.

FUTURES MARKET: Coach Darrin Horn has consistently played at least eight players for 10 minutes or more this season in hopes it would allow his inexperienced team to enter Southeastern Conference play with its eyes opened and not starry. The move worked against Vanderbilt as seven players were on the court for at least 12 minutes while an eighth, starting guard Brian Richardson, played nine. The trend must continue if the Gamecocks are to have any success.


--Sophomore G Ramon Galloway continues to give the Gamecocks solid play off the bench. Serving as the team's sixth man, he is second on the team in scoring at 10 points per game through Jan. 12. He was slated to be a starter this season, but missed almost a month of pre-season practice after injuring his foot. USC Coach Darrin Horn has chosen to continue to bring him off the bench due to his scoring ability. He scored 10 against Alabama.

--Sophomore F Lakeerm Jackson led the Gamecocks with 11 rebounds against Alabama, with six coming on the offensive end. His shooting continues to be suspect, however, as he made only two of seven shots. He was also charged with five turnovers.

--Freshman PG Bruce Ellington continues to improve running the offense. While he leads the team in scoring at 14.9 points through games of Jan. 8, he is improving at running the scheme and getting his teammates involved.

He is coming off a 22-point performance against Vanderbilt in which he made six of 12 3-point shots. Coach Darrin Horn has been more impressed with court presence, however.

--Senior C Sam Muldrow has been inconsistent during the Gamecocks pre-SEC games. If he plays the way he did in the team's league opener against Vanderbilt, things will go better than expected for the team. He scored 16 points, grabbed 14 rebounds and blocked 10 shots in the game giving him only the second triple-double in school history.

Gamecock Anthem Top Stories