NOTEBOOK: Gamecocks break through

And on the 21st day, the Gamecocks celebrated. South Carolina posted its first victory since Jan. 15 and just its second SEC win of the season with Wednesday night's 57-56 nail-biter over Georgia in Columbia.

"We were really just tired of losing," senior Malik Cooke said after hitting the game-winning basket with 19 seconds to go in the game. "We're going to try and start a win streak."

Could this game signal the start of the turnaround South Carolina (10-15, 2-9) desperately needs? Possibly. It certainly cannot be considered a signature win; Georgia, like South Carolina, came into the game 10th among 12 SEC teams in the conference standings.

Make no mistake, though. This Gamecocks team needed a win. Any win. Saturday's loss at Arkansas marked South Carolina's fifth straight defeat and ninth loss in the past 10 games. Beating the Bulldogs ensured the Gamecocks would avoid a 1-10 start in the league for the first time in program history. It also guaranteed South Carolina would not become the first SEC team to post a one-win record in conference play.

Small achievements, but ones that at least connote some semblance of progress for a South Carolina team that has struggled mightily thus far in the 2011-12 season.

The Gamecocks still have plenty of work to do to avoid some historic levels of futility. South Carolina must win at least two of its final five conference games to avoid matching the program's worst-ever SEC record: a 3-13 mark registered on three occasions.

NOTES, QUOTES

Cooke closes in on 1,000th point

--Senior G Malik Cooke came up big for the Gamecocks in Wednesday's win over Georgia, posting a game-high 13 points and coming ever closer to a milestone. Heading into Friday's game against LSU, Cooke needed just six points to reach 1,000 for his career.

--Freshman G Damien Leonard has been playing good basketball since returning to the starting lineup for the Gamecocks, tallying 36 points in South Carolina's previous three games including a career-high 19 on Feb. 4 against Kentucky. Leonard took a step back during the win over Georgia, tallying six points on 2-of-9 shooting.

--Sophomore G Bruce Ellington sprained his toe running out of bounds in the first half, but returned to the game and ended up playing 35 total minutes while compiling seven points, five rebounds and four assists.

QUOTE TO NOTE: "We're going to continue to work, continue to build and try to do positive things here down the stretch of the last (six) games, which historically South Carolina has not been very good at. That is something we can try to focus on and make a positive out of." -- Darrin Horn on his team's approach to the games left in the regular season.

STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL

THIS WEEK'S GAMES
--vs. LSU, Feb. 18

KEY MATCHUPS: USC C Damontre Harris will have his hands full as LSU's 7-0, 260-pound junior C Andrew Del Piero led the team in scoring and rebounding, entering the week. If that isn't enough to deal with, he was coming off a big game in a win over Alabama. The Tigers pose a threat in the backcourt as well as Anthony Hickey and Andre Stringer have been leading the way there.

ON THE SPOT: South Carolina ended its losing streak but coach Darrin Horn isn't out of the woods yet. The Gamecocks would need to win their final five regular-season games and at least one contest in the SEC tournament to avoid finishing with a sub-.500 record for the third straight season. South Carolina hasn't endured that many losing seasons in a row since incurring four straight between 1991 and 1995.

FUTURES MARKET: The season got off to a slow start for sophomore C Damontre Harris as an injured ankle forced him to miss most of the preseason. He has come on strong in the second half of the season, however, not only scoring in double figures in most games, but leading the Gamecocks in rebounds and blocks. The 6-9 athlete has become one of the top shot-blockers in the Southeastern Conference.

PLAYER NOTES

--Sophomore G Brenton Williams, like most USC players this season, has been inconstant. But he has given the Gamecocks solid efforts off the bench in their last three games against Tennessee, Arkansas and Georgia.

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