Gamecocks' victory is an inside job

South Carolina claimed a 79-73 victory over Mississippi Tuesday night in a game that was crucial for the team's psyche. The Gamecocks not only entered mired in a five-game losing streak, all to Southeastern Conference teams, but were coming off their worst game in the streak, a 90-59 defeat to Kentucky.

The Gamecocks obtained the victory by doing several of the things it did when getting off to quick start in league play. It placed four players in double figures, played tough defense for long stretches and didn't fold when the Rebels made a run down the stretch.

"This was a tremendous win for our team that we obviously needed," coach Darrin Horn said. "I'm unbelievable proud of our guys coming off a five-game losing streak and after a game that we didn't compete the way we want to. I thought it was a tremendous response and a total team effort."

The Gamecocks managed to do something it failed to accomplish during the losing streak by winning the rebounding battle, 42-38. That was accomplished in large part because the starting front court of Sam Muldrow, Malik Cooke and Damontre Harris combined for 25 boards, including 12 came on the offensive end.

South Carolina outscored the Rebels, 32-22, in the paint, which has not happened in several games and is something the team will have to continue if it is to have any chance of defeating Georgia, in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.

The Bulldogs topped South Carolina, 60-56, earlier in the season in Columbia.

BEYOND THE BOX SCORE: South Carolina's shooting remained poor against Mississippi, as it hit only 26-of-65 shots for 40 percent. That was two more field goals than its opponent, however, which was limited to 36.9 percent from the field. One of the worst free throw shooting teams in the SEC, the Gamecocks made 20-of-22 in nailing down the victory.

A concern for Carolina has to be the play of Bruce Ellington, who continues to struggle from the field and is showing the effects of an injured left calf. He made only 3-of-11 shots, including 0-of-5 from 3-point range. Although he dished out four assists, he was charged with four turnovers and had no steals. The Gamecocks might get sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson back for Georgia. He has missed three games because of a foot injury.


--The Gamecocks placed four players in double figures in their 79-73 win over Mississippi. They were led by senior center Sam Muldrow, who tied a career-high with 23 points. He also grabbed 10 rebounds for his sixth double-double of the season, while blocking four shots.

--Junior forward Malik Cooke, the one bright spot during South Carolina's five-game losing streak, continued to impress. The team's leading scored during those five games scored 13 points, grabbed seven rebounds and picked up three steals, one coming late in the game against Rebels' all-star guard Chris Warren.

--Freshman forward Damontre Harris, who the coaching staff believes could have the most up-side of anyone on the team, had his best overall game. He scored 11 points, pulled down eight rebounds, grabbed two steals and blocked a shot.

--Although hard to comprehend, there was a time when South Carolina was 4-3 in the Southeastern Conference, a record that included a home victory against Vanderbilt and a road win over Florida. Through Feb. 19, the Gamecocks were 13-12 overall, 4-8 in league play. There had been a common theme during the team's five-game losing streak, an inability to get easy shots, as it had failed to shoot above 40 percent from the field in any of the games.

Coach Darrin Horn had praised his team's willingness to compete during the skid. That wasn't the case following the 31-point loss to Kentucky on Feb. 19.

"We've got individuals that obviously, we count on in a big way," Horn said. "They didn't get anything done tonight."

BY THE NUMBERS: 1 -- Home games remaining for South Carolina. Although the team has done a solid job protecting its home turf during Darrin Horn's tenure, that has not been the case this season. The Gamecocks have a 3-4 home league mark.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm not tired. With my calf, it's a little hard to balance, but I don't think there's nothing wrong with my shot. I've just got to go in the gym and keep working." -- Freshman PG Bruce Ellington, who was suffering from a bruised calf, after making just one of 11 field goals against Kentucky.



--at Georgia, Feb. 26

KEY MATCHUPS: After scoring only nine first-half points against the Bulldogs in the teams' previous encounter this season, South Carolina rallied to pull within two despite trailing by 24 with 11 minutes remaining in the game. Although the Gamecocks lost by four, the defeat could give the squad confidence as it travels to Athens, Ga. If the Gamecocks are to be successful, they must find a way to combat Georgia's powerful inside game.

FUTURES MARKET: South Carolina is suffering growing pains this season, which is understandable, as it has five freshmen in its rotation along with a junior transfer playing in his first year with the squad. With senior F Sam Muldrow the only significant loss, there appear to be good times ahead. SG Damien Leonard and F Anthony Gill, both top 100 players, will join the team as freshmen next fall, along with talented junior F Murphy Holloway, a transfer from Mississippi. That should give the squad more depth next season.


--Sophomore G/F Lakeem Jackson had missed three games with an injured foot. His loss significantly hurts the Gamecocks' defense as he has the ability to defend smaller or larger performers. Although not a great shooter, he gives the squad a strong presence on the offensive boards and finds a way to drive the ball to the basket.

--Freshman PG Bruce Ellington swears his injured calf was not affecting his performance. The statistics of the Gamecocks' leading scorer tell a different story, however, as he had made only 18 of 79 field goals in South Carolina's last five games through Feb. 19.

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