Complete team effort keys win over Florida

University of South Carolina coach Darrin Horn understands that, with a starting lineup featuring three freshmen and a sophomore, there will be ups and downs this season. Never was that more apparent than on the Gamecocks' recent road trip.

After playing one of their worst games of the season in a mid-week loss against Alabama, they rebounded with potentially their best outing to date in a win over Florida.

With a 2-1 league record entering the week, USC now faces the challenge of protecting its home turf as it has three straight games in the Colonial Life Arena. That will not be easy, however, as the opponents are Arkansas, Kentucky and Auburn.

The home stand begins Jan. 19 when Carolina hosts the Razorbacks.

Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington continues to be the team leader in many ways. The squad appears to take on his personality as he played one of his worst games against Alabama, but was hitting on all cylinders against the Gators.

Following a recent slump, freshman shooting guard Brian Richardson appears to have gained his second wind. He scored 10 points against Florida and was two of four from 3-point range. Senior center Sam Muldrow continued his solid performances in league play with 10 points, five rebounds and three blocked shots.

"The biggest key tonight is everybody contributed and did what they could do," said Horn. "When we do that, we give ourselves a chance."

Horn has shortened his rotation, which appears to be working. Seven athletes played 19 minutes or more against Florida.

NOTES, QUOTES

--The good thing about fielding a young team is the 2010-11 edition has a short memory as it has displayed the ability to quickly put bad losses in the review mirror and look ahead. The team has only dropped back-to-back games once this season. That enabled to the Gamecocks to enter the week in a four-way tie in the difficult Southeastern Conference Eastern Division with a 2-1 mark. It was 11-5 overall.

--Even though he has gotten off to a slow start, many within the program believe 6-9 freshman forward Demontre Harris may have the biggest upside of any athlete on the team. Despite recently breaking into the starting lineup, his statistics have not been imposing. He had a solid floor game against Florida, however, scoring eight points while pulling down four rebounds, blocking three shots and playing solid defense.

--The smaller Gamecocks out-rebounded Florida 39-36 with 14 coming on the offensive boards. USC leads the SEC in offensive rebounds.

BY THE NUMBERS: 8 -- The Gamecocks were 8-0 when leading at halftime entering the week.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I've never been in a situation where you come out and try to hold on and it goes good. We wanted to come out and play our game and do the best we can to keep defending and rebounding." -- USC coach Darrin Horn on the Gamecocks owning a 10-point halftime lead and holding on for the win against Florida.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES:

--vs. Arkansas, Jan. 19

KEY MATCHUPS: While neither amassing huge statistics, sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson and junior transfer forward Malik Cooke have given the Gamecocks great energy. That will have to continue against a tall, talented Razorback team. Jackson scored 10 points, grabbed five rebounds and had two assists against Florida, while Cooke came off the bench to score seven points, lead the team in rebounds with seven and grab a steal.

--vs. Kentucky, Jan. 22

KEY MATCHUPS: The Wildcats entered Colonial Life Arena undefeated and ranked number one in the country a year ago. They left with their first loss as USC claimed a 68-62 win. Horn, a Lexington, Ky. native, owns a 3-1 record against UK since taking over the program.

FUTURES MAKET: Darrin Horn opened the season playing virtually his entire team. Since the Gamecocks entered SEC play, the USC coach has narrowed that as seven players are in the main rotation. That includes three freshmen (all starters), two sophomores, a junior and a senior. He has even found a way to rest freshman point guard Bruce Ellington, who leads the team in minutes played. Freshman point guard Eric Smith is playing about 10 minutes per game, which has enabled Ellington to remain fresh.

PLAYER NOTES

--Freshman PG Bruce Ellington has been sensational in South Carolina's two SEC victories. He led all scorers in the team's 72-69 win over Florida with 23 points. He also had four rebounds, three assists and one steal, while suffering only one turnover. He leads the team in scoring at 15 points per encounter and is the squad's only double digit scorer.

--Freshman PG Eric Smith did not score a point against Florida, but he provided 10 solid minutes, which was just the relief starter Bruce Ellington needed.

--Junior forward Malik Cooke played only 19 minutes against Florida, but came off the bench and led the Gamecocks in rebounds with seven. He also scored seven points.

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