Gamecocks roll in season opening victory

During the disappointing 2006-2007 basketball season, Coach Dave Odom's squad struggled to put up enough points to win, despite playing solid defense. It took about 24 minutes of the 2007-2008 season opener for that trend to change, as the new look Gamecocks cruised to a 92-67 victory over S.C. State on Friday night.


A year ago, Carolina averaged 64.7 points per game. In the first half Friday night, they nearly equaled that amount, outscoring the Bulldogs 55-28. The 55 points also equaled the total they scored against the Bulldogs last year in a 55-52 victory. The Gamecocks reached 65 points just 4:07 minutes into the second half.

"We took control early and added to it," said Dave Odom. "It looked like maybe South Carolina State wasn't ready for the pressure that our team put on them early. It got them playing a little bit faster than they were comfortable playing."

The leader of the rout was undoubtedly sophomore point guard Devan Downey. The transfer from Cincinnati has played just one game in the garnet and black, but he is already a fan favorite with his lightning fast play on offense and defense. On the first play of the game, he stole the ball and raced to the other end of the court for a layup. He scored 24 points, the most in a Gamecock debut since Larry Davis scored 26 in 1995.

"Everybody came out and played hard and played defense," Downey said. "I think that [first] play kind of got me going. We've got so many athletes, so many guys that can hit open shots, [and go] up and down and not let the defense set. If we can continue to play like that, we can beat anybody.

The game got out of hand early. Leading 15-9, four minutes into the game, the Gamecocks went on a 26-2 run over the next 8 minutes. During that stretch, Downey controlled the pace of the game, and Carolina was able to run away, literally, from the Bulldogs offensively and defensively.

The pace slowed down at the end of the first half and into the second, allowing S.C. State to actually outscore the Gamecocks in the second half, 39-37. Once again, the Gamecocks put on their track shoes and pushed the tempo. The lead stretched to as much as 36 before Odom went to a zone defense to milk the clock.

"You want to think you're wise enough, old enough, smart enough to keep playing the same way you played in the first half," he said. "At halftime, you'd have a hard time convincing anybody on our team that we were going to lose. The shock treatment is over. South Carolina State relaxed and played the way they are capable of playing."

There was a moment of concern midway through the second half, when Downey went into the locker room with a cramp in his leg. He returned to the game minutes later, and showed no ill effects.

Lost in the impressive start, however, was the fact that the Gamecocks were once again outrebounded by a smaller opponent. The Bulldogs held a 48-39 rebounding edge, including 23 offensive rebounds.

"We got beat badly on the boards, particularly in the second half," Odom said. "We're extended so far out on the perimeter that our perimeter defenders are not getting back and helping us rebound. I thought South Carolina State had their way inside in the second half. That is particularly alarming."


Notes:

- Three Gamecocks had to wear different jerseys in the second half because of blood. Mike Holmes switched from his normal 24 to 13 and then 35, Sam Muldrow wore 44 then 30, and Evka Baniulis switched from 31 to 15.

- Carolina's 92 points were the most in a home opener since 1988, when the Gamecocks beat Lander 96-54.

- Odom complimented the fans for the announced turnout of 13,848 and for the energy they brought to the team.

- Odom said he intends to redshirt Trevor Deloach, although he has "the right to change [his] mind."


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