Gamecocks turn attention to tournament

It was the same song with a different verse in South Carolina's final regular season game against Mississippi State on the road. The Gamecocks fell behind early and were forced to fight to catch up the remainder of the game. USC now turns its attention to the SEC Tournament and a rematch with Ole Miss.

As has been the case in recent games, just when it appeared all was lost, the Gamecocks rallied to pull within one with less than a minute remaining prior to falling 60-58 after botching a last second possession in which it missed a 3-point shot that could have potentially given it the much needed victory.

The Gamecocks continued to struggle to find ways to score as they again shot less than 40 percent from the field, connecting on just 23 of 64 field goals and five of 18 3-point attempts. They played better defense, however, holding Mississippi State to less than 40 percent from the field.

USC had another outstanding day from the free throw line, making all but one of its attempts. It only went to the stripe eight times, however, as it was again was out-scored from there. Its inability to challenge defenses inside continues to be a problem.

Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington, led the team in scoring with 15 after several games of tallying single digits. He made a major mistake at the end of the contest, however, when he launched a late 3-point attempt rather than working the ball inside to senior center Sam Muldrow for a more high percentage shot.

Carolina finished the regular season with a 14-15 overall record and a 5-11 league mark. As the number six seed in the Eastern Division it will face Mississippi in the first round of the SEC Tournament on March 10 at 3:30 p.m. in the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.


--USC faces a Mississippi team it defeated in Columbia late in the season in the first round of the SEC tournament. If the Gamecocks are to be successful they will have to find a way to get the ball to their best player, senior center Sam Muldrow. He not only has been a consistent force inside, but has been the team's best 3-point shooter as well.

"I think he has the talent to play on the next level, but I coached the best player I've ever had last season (former USC point guard Devan Downey) and he is playing overseas," said USC coach Darrin Horn of Muldrow. "He is having a great season for us and has been a great leader."

Muldrow has seven double/doubles, including one triple/double this season. He is the Gamecocks career and SEC active career leader in blocked shots.

--Although USC entered the SEC tournament with a 14-15 overall and 5-11 league record, all is not lost for the future. Only center Muldrow and reserve forward Johndre Jefferson graduate. The Gamecocks started three to four freshmen throughout the season and played five extensively. With top 100 players Anthony Gill and Damien Leonard, joining University of Mississippi transfer Murphy Holloway there is the potential for significant improvement next season.

--Sophomore swing man Lakeem Jackson appeared more comfortable in second start after returning to the team following a three-game absence due to an injured foot. He scored seven points, pulled down six rebounds and led the team in assists with three.

BY THE NUMBERS: 0 -- The number of SEC tournament games USC has won since Darrin Horn took over the program.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "Down the stretch, he did what you want your point guard to do. He really took charge. He ran the team. The shots he took were good shots. They were aggressive. Bruce played really well down the stretch." -- USC coach Darrin Horn on the play of freshman point guard Bruce Ellington down the stretch against Mississippi State.



--vs. Mississippi, March 10

KEY MATCHUPS: Mississippi senior guard Charles Warren scored a career-high 33 points against South Carolina in the regular season contest against South Carolina, hitting eight 3-pointers. The Gamecocks managed to win the contest thanks to an outstanding performance by senior center Sam Muldrow who had 23 points, 10 rebounds and four blocked shots.

FUTURES MARKET: Although coach Darrin Horn has talked about it non-stop, South Carolina continues to limp out of the gate in all of their games in the second half of the season. That has led to the team losing eight straight encounters and nine of its last 10. Teams have mostly employed a 2-3 zone defense against the Gamecocks. That has left the squad, which has displayed an inability to penetrate those defenses, passing the ball around the perimeter. That has led to shooting percentages of consistently less than 40 percent.


--Freshman PG Bruce Ellington has suffered through a frustrating season after getting off to a start that had every Southeastern Conference coach taking notice. But, although both his shooting percentage and shot selection remained suspect in the Gamecocks 60-58 loss to Mississippi State to close the regular season, he played with more confidence in leading the team in scoring with 15 points. More importantly, he was only charged with two turnovers in 36 minutes of play.

--Senior C Sam Muldrow got off to a sluggish start, but has become USC's most consistent performer. Despite the team's losing streak, he has continued to play hard and lead by both example and results. That is a difference from early in his career when he was one of the squad's most inconsistent performers.

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