Dominique Archie scored 16 points and had eight rebounds to lead South Carolina to a 71-51 win over North Carolina-Asheville on Thursday night. The Gamecocks (8-2) turned the ball over on their first possession, then made eight straight shots, including three 3-pointers, to take a 19-4 lead.
USC Center Brandon Wallace said of the early lead, "It was like `Happy Holidays' to us. A lot of guys making shots - Evka (Baniulis) finally got out and made a three-ball so it was really good." Baniulis came in known for his three-point prowess, but had missed his first 10 career 3-pointers at USC before this game.
Wallace said of himself and Tre Kelley, the two senior leaders on the team, that ""We talked about it earlier. Tre' and I wanted to get it together and going early so we could sit down. We didn't want to have another 40 minute night and then have to play again tomorrow, so that was huge."
Wallace had his hands full guarding UNC-A's center. Sophomore Kenny George is a legitimate 7‘6", and at 335 pounds, can fill up the lane all by himself.
"He was the biggest person I've ever seen in my life." Wallace said. "To see somebody dunk it like that just blows your mind. I tried to make him change direction before I made my move. If I could make him move without putting it on the floor, then I could use my quickness."
The Bulldogs (4-9) would cut the lead under 10 just one more time at 30-22 with 5:17 to go in the first half. But South Carolina made its final five shots of the half to take a 42-24 lead at the break. The 42 points were the most first-half points scored this season by USC.
"It was a good outing for us." USC Coach Dave Odom said. "I was very pleased that we came out from Christmas break. I thought we were very enthusiastic in practice. Yesterday's practice wasn't great but it wasn't bad. One of the reasons we played hard was that I thought our team really responded well to the crowd."
The lead grew to as many as 33 points before Asheville cut the deficit to 20 at the buzzer.
South Carolina shot 47.5 percent (29-of-61) from the field and made nine of its 27 3-pointers, while the Bulldogs shot 32.3 percent (21-of-65) from the field and made just two of 18 from behind the arc.
Tre Kelley had 14 points and eight assists, while Brandon Wallace added 12 points, seven assists and six rebounds for the Gamecocks.
K.J. Garland and Bryan Smithson led Asheville with seven points apiece.
Archie said after the game that "We felt like we had to prove a point. I haven't been showing up lately so it was good to play well."
USC plays Jacksonville tonight at 6 p.m. Coach Odom has invited fans to come watch the second half of the bowl game on the Jumbotron in the Colonial Center before the basketball game. Fans must have a ticket to the basketball game in order to enter the Colonial Center.
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