Gamecocks Overcome Scare from Lipscomb
Scott Sanderson played four years for USC under former coach Bill Foster, so Sunday was a homecoming for him. But his team was the opponent this night on the Gamecocks home court, and apparently someone forgot to tell him the visiting team at homecoming is supposed to be a patsie. His Bisons played for keeps, and it took a concerted effort by the Gamecock's five best players to vanquish them.
After a harrowing first half where the Gamecocks had to hustle to climb back into the game after falling to a double digit deficit, Odom kept his five best players on the floor without a single substitution in the second half. Old time USC basketball fans might have thought they were seeing the return of the McGuire "Iron Five" style of play. Sheldon, Archie, Wallace, Kelley, and Raley-Ross all played at least 34 minutes. Dwayne Day started the game, but was quickly replaced by Raley-Ross.
"The key to the game in terms of us being in the game and having a chance to win it came in the last couple of minutes in the first half," USC head coach Dave Odom said. "I always feel good that we can win the game if we get to within four points at halftime."
When things began to look dark for the Gamecocks, senior point guard Tre Kelly took the team on his back and single-handedly began the rally to bring them back close at the half, scoring the first two points of a 15-5 Gamecock run over the last 6:14. He had 16 points for the game. Kelly said, "We got down early when we shouldn't have. We fought. We fought hard. We got some good defensive stops, got some rebounds, got some points in transition."
"I think our team deserves a great deal of credit," Odom said. "I was really pleased with the way our team kept its poise and composure. I give our seniors a lot of credit for that. Tre Kelley played extremely well."
Odom spent much of his pre-season press conference talking about Dominique Archie and what a critical role he would play in the success or failure of this year's team. It seemed a lot to place on the shoulders of a red shirt freshman who had yet to play a minute of college basketball. And for the first three games of the season, it seemed to be, when Archie looked lost much of the time, scoring only seven points in three games. The light seemed to come on for #21 Sunday afternoon, as he recorded his best game, scoring 20 points, snaring 10 rebounds, and blocking 3 shots for good measure.
Brandis Raley-Ross continued to show that he is the real deal, scoring 17 points in 34 minutes of play. The most impressive play of the day was when Raley-Ross threw a no-look behind the back pass from deep under the basket in traffic to Dominique Archie. When asked about it after the game, Archie said he wasn't expecting it. But he knew what to do with it, putting it in the basket for two of his 20 points.
"Brandis Raley-Ross really got us rolling," Odom said. "He hit some key shots in the latter portion of the first half and into the second half when they began to double and take the ball out of Tre's hands. He stepped up and made shots."
After a back and forth battle for much of the second half, the two teams were tied at 55-55 with 7:31 left in the game. USC then scored nine consecutive points to take a 64-55 lead with 4:08 left. The last couple of minutes became a game of quick attempts for a score by Lipscomb and then a quick foul on USC, but the Gamecocks made 9-of-10 free throws over the final 2:11 to thwart that strategy.
"That was one of the great wins since I've been here based on Lipscomb is one of the best teams in the country nobody knows," USC Dave Odom said. "They're well-coached. They have one the best backcourts as any team we'll see this year. I mean that. They shoot the ball, they handle the ball, they know how to play. The only thing that keeps them from being a truly great team is a lack of experience and size inside."
USC improved to 3-1 overall, while Lipscomb fell to 2-2. USC does not play again until a week from Monday when they travel to Charleston to play the Citadel.
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