Cardiac Cocks come from behind again to win

Trailing by 13 points with 16:22 left in the second half, it didn't look promising for the Gamecocks, but for the second straight game they overcame a double-digit second half deficit to win, this time by a 67-65 score over the visiting UC-Irvine Anteaters. The post play of Dominique Archie and Chad Gray in the last ten minutes of the game and Devan Downey's clutch play sealed the deal for USC.


Anyone following South Carolina basketball this season knows the Gamecock guards can play the game. Sophomore Devan Downey is one of the fastest players to ever wear the garnet and black, and like he has so many times in his first year as a Gamecock, he hit a clutch shot late in the game, nailing a game tying three pointer. Zam Fredrick has also been a key performer for USC, and Brandis Raley-Ross leads the nation in 3-point shooting percentage.

But the headlines in the win this night belonged to the players inside. Dominique Archie has started every game in his two seasons as a Gamecock, and led his team with 18 points and seven rebounds. After the Anteaters built their 13 point lead, Archie lead an offensive charge that turned the tide in favor of the Gamecocks. Archie seemed to be everywhere in the second half, scoring down low and from behind the arc. "Dominique Archie, you have to give him a lot of credit in that run that brought us back," Coach Dave Odom said. Odom had spent a great deal of time working with Archie lately, and it clearly paid off Friday night.

"We have shown we have the fight to come back," Archie said. "I don't think the NCAA cares if you come from behind. When it comes to NCAA Tournament time, a win is a win."

Archie's fellow backcourt star of the night was somewhat of a surprise. After Sam Muldrow picked up his fourth foul with a little over eight minutes left in the second half, Chad Gray came in and finished the game next to Archie, and played his best game of the year, scoring nine points and pulling down three key defensive rebounds. "I'm really happy for Chad Gray," Odom said. "He's one we've been waiting on for a year and a half now to stick his head up. He really began to play much better. His defense is better than some of the younger players and he hit some shots tonight, which is always good."

Gray said, "I have really been working hard in practice on the offensive end, working hard in practice and trying to get in better condition."

"This team likes to live on the edge, no question about that," Odom said. "It helps them to have the attitude that we're never out of it. This is the second game coming back from a double-digit deficit at home. It speaks to the grit and determination of this team." USC did not take the lead for good until there were only 55 seconds left in the game.

The Gamecocks opened the game looking to establish a post presence, and jumped out to an early 8-3 lead with three baskets in the paint and two free throws after a foul down low on Archie. Odom noted that USC was fortunate to trail by only seven at halftime, because with the exception of Archie and Mike Holmes, the Gamecock offense was dreadful in the first half. Holmes kept USC in the game early, scoring eight of his ten points in the first half. "I was surprised that our offense was out of sync," Odom said. "We probably shouldn't have been. We spent so much time trying to improve our defense that I guess when I look over the last two or three days of practice, we just hadn't spent any time on offense."

USC had no answer for the inside-outside attack of the Anteaters in the first half. Darren Fells dominated the interior for UCI with 13 first half points, and Patrick Sanders was 3-3 from behind the arc, and matched Fells 13 first half points. USC cut their second half production in half, as both players only scored seven points after halftime, to finish with 20 points each.

Though they outrebounded the Anteaters 36-33 for the game, the Gamecocks weakness on the offensive boards was a key factor in their poor offensive showing in the first three quarters of the game. USC only had six offensive rebounds on the night.

Raley-Ross did not score a single point on the night, but in the second half he came flying out of seemingly nowhere to block an otherwise uncontested layup, putting the ball deep in the bleachers. The play ignited the team, and the offense fed off of key defensive stops the rest of the night. "We were able to change some defenses which I thought kept them off stride just a little bit." Odom said.

Not to overlook the guard play, Downey scored 15 of his 17 points in the second half, and scored 11 of USC's final 14 points, his final six points coming at the foul line in the closing minutes of the game. Downey is a 79.1% free throw shooter. He also had five assists, three rebounds and a steal. Fredrick had nine points and six rebounds. Raley-Ross added four assists, three rebounds and a steal. "Coach has a plan for me as the point guard," Downey said. "He says make plays, get the ball to your teammates, get them involved but win the game. I didn't have a good game. But I was able to find a way at the end of push us over the hump. That's all that matters."

"We hit three three's down the stretch," Odom said. "A really big three was Devan's three from the corner. We were able to combine that with 11-12 free throws in the second half which was key for us."

USC improved their record to 7-5 on the season as they closed out the 2007 portion of the 2007-2008 season. They can notch Odom's 400th win as a head coach and 100th victory as a Gamecock with a win in their next game against Radford on Wednesday, January 2. The game will tip off at 7:30 in the Colonial Center. The Gamecocks only have two more non-conference games left before beginning SEC play. The victory kept UC-Irvine winless on the road this season, as the Anteaters fell to 4-8 after losing their third road game in eight days.


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