Lineup swap helps Gamecocks topple Tigers

For three consecutive games, South Carolina got very little from its three freshman starters, leading many to believe the trio had hit the "freshman wall." Coach Darrin Horn replaced first-year wing player Brian Richardson with his hottest offensive performer, sophomore Ramon Galloway, in the team's Feb. 2 Southeastern Conference road game against LSU.

The move worked, as Richardson, known as an outstanding long range shooter, broke out of prolonged slump coming off the bench, and Galloway gave the Gamecocks' starting lineup stability. South Carolina broke a two-game losing streak with a 64-56 win over the Tigers. Richardson made two of four 3-point shots, scoring eight points off the bench, while Galloway had nine points and five rebounds in his starting role.

An even better sign for South Carolina was the play of freshman point guard Bruce Ellington, who led the team in scoring with 20 points. Although he made only six of 17 field-goal attempts, he managed to take charge against the Tigers, which is something he had failed to do in recent encounters.

The win improved the Gamecocks to 13-7 overall and 4-3 in the conference, leaving them 1 1/2 games behind first-place Florida in the SEC East.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington officially announced his arrival in the SEC when he scored 23 points, including 17 in the season half, in leading South Carolina to a come-from-behind home overtime victory against Vanderbilt in the league opener. The performance put the conference on notice that, although all-league performer Devan Downey was no longer a Gamecock, the team still had a serious threat at the point. South Carolina will need a similar performance, if not more, from its 5-foot-9 dynamo if it is to have a chance to sweep the Commodores when the teams face off in Nashville on Feb. 5.

NOTES, QUOTES

--South Carolina didn't exactly shoot lights out in its 64-56 win against LSU on Feb. 2, making 22 of 50 field goals, but it compensated by hitting six of 16 3-point baskets and 14 of 17 free throws. The Gamecocks limited the Tigers to 35.3 percent shooting from the field, while LSU hit only five of 18 3-point attempts. The formula was symbolic of the way the Gamecocks managed to win games prior to losing two straight to finish January.

--Since the start of its SEC season, South Carolina had struggled to make baskets. In their first six league games, the Gamecocks connected on just 37.6 percent of their field goals and 28.6 percent of their 3-point attempts. Probably most disappointing was freshman shooting guard Brian Richardson. Recruited mostly for his ability to hit the long range jumper, he has made only five of 22 3-point shots in league play (23.7 percent) through Jan. 30.

--South Carolina had survived its lack of shooting by being dominant on the boards. That was not the case again Auburn. The Gamecocks were outrebounded 47-35 in the game, its biggest deficit of the season. Its 13 offensive rebounds was also a low for USC in conference action. The Gamecocks entered the contest averaging a league best 16.4 offensive boards.

--Junior forward Malik Cooke was whistled for a technical foul against Auburn. It marked the second consecutive game in which a Gamecock player has been assessed a technical. Freshman guard Bruce Ellington received on against Kentucky.

--South Carolina ranks as one of the youngest teams in the nation in terms of experience. It entered the 2010 season with 12 eligible players, but only nine combined seasons of Division I basketball experience. Only one player, senior forward Sam Muldrow, had played for coach Darrin Horn for more than one season. The team features three freshmen and a sophomore in the starting lineup.

BY THE NUMBERS: 11 -- The number of blocked shots senior center Sam Muldrow needed, through Jan. 30, to surpass former Gamecock Brandon Wallace as the program's all-time leader. The career mark is 249.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "The energy level was just not where it was supposed to be today. Coach emphasized it in practice and we did not perform today." -- Sophomore guard Ramon Galloway, who led South Carolina in scoring with 20 points, on the team's performance against Auburn.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:

--at Vanderbilt, Feb. 5

KEY MATCHUPS: The Gamecocks opened the SEC season with a come-from-behind 83-75 home victory over Vanderbilt. Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington and senior forward Sam Muldrow paced the team. Ellington has 22 points seven rebounds and four assists, while Muldrow had 16 points, 14 rebounds and 10 blocks.

FUTURES MARKET:

--Freshman PG Bruce Ellington entered the Feb. 2 game at LSU mired in a three-game slump. Much of it had to do with limited playing time due to early foul trouble in each contest. The Gamecocks' leading scorer rebounded against the Tigers, producing a game-high 20 points in leading his team to victory. Despite connecting on just six of 17 field goals, he was 3-for-8 from 3-point range and 5-for-6 from the free-throw line.

--Sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson returned to action Feb. 2 after missing South Carolina's home loss against Auburn with an injured foot. His return was welcomed, as he pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. He continued to struggled shooting, making one of six field goals and scoring four points. Jackson's aggressive defensive style and play on both the offensive and defensive boards is essential to the Gamecocks' success.

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