Balkman Has Career Night As USC Edges USF

South Carolina recovered nicely from one of its most disappointing losses in recent memory with a 72-70 victory over the stubborn and well-coached South Florida Bulls Tuesday night at the Colonial Center. Renaldo Balkman scored a career high 17 points and Brandon Wallace made several key plays down the stretch, none bigger than a block of a USF shot with four seconds left to preserve a two-point lead.

After the disappointing overtime loss to Clemson 10 days ago, South Carolina badly needed a victory against the visiting South Florida Bulls Tuesday.

Thankfully, the Great Gamecock in the Sky smiled upon USC this night.

USC rallied from an eight-point deficit with less than 15 minutes remaining to edge South Florida, 72-70, before a mostly subdued crowd of 6,907 at the Colonial Center.

USC will take its 5-1 record, and a shot of much-needed confidence, to the chilly confines of Lawrence, KS Saturday night as the Gamecocks face the No. 2 Kansas Jayhawks at historic Phog Allen Fieldhouse. The game will be televised by Fox SportsSouth at 8:00 p.m.

Renaldo Balkman may have played his best game in a USC uniform, scoring a career-high 17 points and grabbing five rebounds. He connected on 7-of-11 shots, including 2-of-3 from 3-point range. Carlos Powell recovered nicely from his poor performance against Clemson to score 15 points.

Tre Kelley continued his strong season with 14 points and six assists. Josh Gonner scored 12 points, although he was only 4-for-11 from the field.

Brandon Wallace turned in the defensive play of the game, and maybe the season, when he blocked a shot with four seconds left as USF attempted to tie the game. The ball flew out of bounds, allowing USC to set up its defense gain. A subsequent 3-pointer clanged off the rim and USC rebounded as the buzzer sounded.

After USC took a 40-35 halftime lead, USC asserted itself early in the second half with a three-point play and 3-pointer to take a 41-40 lead with 18:35 left.

After a jumper by Tarence Kinsey, his first basket in two games, and a free throw by Powell gave USC a 43-41 lead, USF ran off 10 straight points to take its biggest lead of the contest (51-43) and further quiet the already subdued crowd.

A full timeout called by USC appeared to light a fire under the Gamecocks. After the timeout, USC scored six straight points to cut the lead to 51-49 heading into the second media timeout with 11:40 left.

Balkman broke USF's run with a driving layup. He had another basket from close range after Powell had scored a layup.

Balkman then did it again, hitting a shot as he was falling away from the basket in the lane. He was fouled on the play, and hit the free throw to make it a one-point game at 53-52 with 9:35 left.

After a USF basket, Rocky Trice started an 8-0 USC run by hitting a pair of free throws to again pull USC within one at 55-54. USC took its first lead since 40-38 when Tisby converted a baby hook in the lane.

USC led, 56-55, when the third media timeout was called with 7:33 left in the game.

Brandon Wallace, invisible for most of the night, slammed home his own miss for his first basket of the game. Tisby nailed a jumper from the free throw line to give USC a 60-55 lead, and forced USF to call a timeout with 6:30 left.

Another crowd-pleasing slam dunk by Wallace gave USC a 62-57 lead. A couple of turnovers prevented the Gamecocks from widening the lead.

USF cut the lead to two (62-60) before Powell made one of two free throws with 4:20 left.

Kelley stole a pass and drove for an uncontested layup to give USC a seven-point advantage at 67-60, with 3:40 left.

USF responded with four straight points to climb within three but Powell made one of two free throws to make it 68-64 with 1:55 left.

The clubs trade baskets to bring matters to 70-66 with 1:23 left. After a USF free throw, USC got possession with just over a minute left and moved the ball around. Powell was fouled underneath and made one of two free throws to give USC a 71-67 lead with 44 seconds left.

The worst case scenario occurred on the USF end as the Bulls recorded a three-point play to make it a one-point game at 71-70 with 28 seconds left.

After a USC timeout, USF went to a full court press. The ball was inbounded to Powell, who was immediately fouled. He made the second free throw to give USC a 72-70 lead with 27.2 seconds left.

USC went to a full-court press and gave USF fits as the Bulls tried to bring the ball upcourt. USF had to call timeout, its last of the game, with 17.1 seconds left.

USF passed the ball in and worked it around the perimeter before a Bulls player drove the lane and let go with a shot. Wallace rose up and using his long arms swatted the ball away with 4.1 seconds left.

USF took the ball out. A 3-pointer clanged off the side of the rim and Wallace rebounded as time expired.

In the first half, USC quickly fell behind 4-0, before Kelley hit a driving layup for USC's initial points of the game. Another driving layup by Kelley tied the score at 6-6 with 16:44 left.

After a basket by Powell tied the score at 8-8, USF scored the next four points to take a 12-8 lead first media timeout was called with 14:43 left.

Kelley hit a driving layup and then a 3-pointer to bring USC within one at 14-13 with 12:41 left. After a USF jumper, Gonner buried a 3-pointer, his first basket of the game, to tie the score for the third time. Much of the credit for that hoop should go to John Chappell, who outfought a couple of USF players for an offensive rebound. He swung the ball out to the top and the ball quickly made its way to Gonner on the wing.

The team remained tied at 16-16, when the second media timeout was called with 11:13 left.

Balkman answered a four-point USF run with a 3-pointer from the right wing to make the score 20-19 with 9:19 left. But USF had a three-point play to push the lead back to four (23-19).

It was all Gamecocks for the next five minutes, as USC outscored the Bulls, 16-3, to take a 35-26 lead with 4:28 left. Gonner had a chance for a three-point play of his own but he missed the free throw, making the Gamecocks 0-for-3 on their free throw attempts.

USC finally tied the score at 23-23 on a basket when Rocky Trice made two free throws with 8:00 left. That was the score when the third media timeout was called with 7:31 left.

USC took its first lead when Kelley picked up a misdirected USF pass near midcourt and drove for a layup while being fouled. He made the free throw to give USC a three-point lead at 26-23.

Powell made a runner in the lane to push the lead to five (28-23). After a USF 3-pointer, the Bulls' only points during the run, USC scored seven straight points on a pair of free throws by Gonner, a 3-pointr by Balkman (his second trey of the half), and a layup by Powell (after Kelley drove the lane and made a nice dishoff).

The crowd roared when Powell fed Balkman for a pretty layup to make it 37-29 with 3:45 left. USC took its first double-digit lead of the game when Gonner stole the ball just as the 35-second shot clock went off and drove the court for a layup and foul. He swished the free throw, giving USC a 40-29 lead.

USF drained a couple of 3-pointers to cut the lead to five, as USC went cold for the final 2:17 of the half. The Gamecocks misfired on their last three shots, and finished at 50.0% (15-for-30) for the first half.



USF: 35-35=70

USC: 40-32=72

USC Leading Scorer: Renaldo Balkman, 17 points

USF Leading Scorer: Terrence Leather, 24 points.

USC Leading Rebounder: Antoine Tisby, 9.

USF Leading Rebounder: Terrence Leather, 8.

Halftime: USC 40-35.

Next Game: Sat. 12/18 at Kansas, 8:00 p.m. Next Home Game: v. SC State, 7:30 p.m.

NOTES: USC's starting lineup - G Tre Kelley, G Josh Gonner, F Carlos Powell, F Tarence Kinsey, and C Brandon Wallace. . .Tuesday's game marked the first meeting between USC and USF in basketball since February, 1997, when the two teams met in Tampa. USC won that game, 86-63. . .Tuesday's game ended a 10-day break for the Gamecocks, who also started a four-games in eight days stretch. . .USF lost at Michigan, 71-62, in its last outing on 12/11. . .USF is located in Tampa, FL. USC has two players from that city, Tarence Kinsey and Renaldo Blakman. . .USF is a member of Conference USA. . .USC shot 45.8% from the floor (27-for-59), but was only 4-for-16 from 3-point range. USC is 8-for-30 from long range in the last two games. . .After the dismal display from the charity stripe against Clemson, USC shot free throws better against USF, making 14-for-23. . .Both teams had 31 rebounds.

QUOTES:

USC HEAD COACH DAVE ODOM: "This game really helped us. We needed a close game. We didn't need a game where we coasted through. South Florida really pushed us."

"It was exactly what we needed – a hard fought win. The game ended with use on the defensive end for the second straight game. Tonight I was proud of the way we defended in the last 20 seconds. We put our best defensive team on the floor and told them not to give up the three. I couldn't be happier with the way it happened."

"Brandon's block at the end was big because it allowed us to reset our defense. I don't think the ball was going in. But they had broken down our defense so they could have had someone tip it in or grab the offensive rebound were it not for the block."

"I was not pleased with the way we came out in the second half. I think they had a 16-3 run or something and the next thing I knew we were eight points down. USF is a good basketball team. It will give us confidence, which is something we don't have enough of now."

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