Notebook: Back in the losing column

With the Southeastern Conference tournament a little more than a week away, things couldn't be going worse for South Carolina. After breaking a five-game losing streak with a home win over Mississippi, the Gamecocks followed it with possibly their worse game of the season in dropping a 64-48 road decision to Georgia.

USC was never in the contest that wasn't as close as the final tally. It had its worst shooting performance of the season, connecting on just 17 of 60 field goals for 28.3 percent. Included in that total was an atrocious 1-of-19 from 3-point range (5.3 percent).

The Gamecocks were outplayed in virtually every statistic. They were out-rebounded 42-34 and dished out only four assists, compared to 17 by the Bulldogs. Struggling the most continues to be freshman point guard Bruce Ellington.

Continuing to suffer with an injured right calf, he scored seven points on 3-of-12 shooting from the field. More telling were his floor statistics as he had no assists, but turned the ball over five times.

"Again the challenge was once we dug the big hole we had to fight to come from behind," said USC coach Darrin Horn, "The one concern was we saw a little bit on our guys face was the, 'Oh no.' And there is not a whole lot we can do about that but go through it and understand the maturity it takes and continue to play through that."

Sporting a 14-13 overall and 5-9 league record through Feb. 26, about the only thing the team had to shoot for was making improvements in its final two regular season games -- a contest at home against Tennessee and a road game against Mississippi State.

The team will enter the tournament in last place in the Eastern Division and will probably need to advance deep into the tourney just to have an opportunity to participate in the NIT.

Turning things around against Tennessee could be difficult as the Gamecocks have not defeated the Vols during Darrin Horn's tenure as the Gamecocks coach.

NOTES, QUOTES

--There have been few positives for the Gamecocks during the second half of the season. They have won only two of their last 10 games and one of their last six. While the team has done little right, finding a way to consistently score has been the biggest problem.

The team placed three players in double figures against Georgia with junior forward Malik Cooke leading the way with 11. Senior center Sam Muldrow and sophomore reserve guard Ramon Galloway each chipped in 10. It marked the fifth game in the last seven in which Cooke has paced the Gamecocks in scoring.

"I'm sure they are frustrated," said Horn. "But at the same time we have to take responsibility for that and ownership for what is going on. We are the same team that has done some positive things we have done and I think that is part of the maturing process."

--South Carolina enters its final home game, March 3, against Tennessee having won only three of its seven home SEC games. In Darrin Horn's three-year tenure with the team that standard has gotten worse each season. The Gamecocks owned 7-1 home league mark in his first campaign. That fell to 5-3 last season.

BY THE NUMBERS: 3 -- The number of consecutive league games South Carolina had dropped on the road through Feb. 26.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "One-for-19 in the 3-point column pretty much tells the story. We couldn't throw it in. Once we dug the big hole, we had to fight and come from behind." -- (Darrin Horn on his team's shooting woes against Georgia).

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

GAME PREVIEW:

--vs. Tennessee, March 3

KEY MATCHUPS: The Gamecocks were competitive when the teams met in Knoxville two weeks ago. Although they were defeated by double figures it was probably their best performance against a league team away from home since they defeated Florida early in the season.

--at Mississippi State, March 5

KEY MATCHUPS: USC has had little luck against the Bulldogs in the Darrin Horn era, going 0-4. Three of the matchups came during the regular season with one in the first round of the 2008-09 SEC tournament.

FUTURES MARKET: Sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson returned to action after missing three straight games with an injured foot. He was a non-factor, however, coming off the bench to score two points, grab two rebounds and pick up one steal in 13 minutes. Although his inability to shoot consistently is a liability, the team needs his energy and aggressiveness.

PLAYER NOTES

--Although senior Sam Muldrow scored 10 points, he didn't manage the feat until Georgia had emptied its bench. Coming off one of his best overall performances in a home win against Mississippi, he was unable to capitalize on it Saturday. Part of the problem was the lack of help from any other performers inside.

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