Gamecocks down Panthers in exhibition game

Certainly, Darrin Horn would have liked to have won his first game as a Gamecock in much more commanding fashion, beating Kentucky Wesleyan 75-55 in an unsightly game that had some nervous moments in the second half. For now he has to take solace in the fact that it was only an exhibition, and he has exactly one week to get Carolina ready for the season opener against Jacksonville State.

"I don't think it was really pretty," Horn said, "but I was pleased with the effort our guys showed. There's some obvious concerns. Our focus coming into tonight's game was just effort related. We've got a few days to get ready for the one that counts next Friday."

The final score was reminiscent of a Dave Odom score, but the path there was noticeably different. South Carolina pressured Kentucky Wesleyan defensively, picking up the ball full court and trapping often. The Gamecocks pushed the ball up court on almost every possession, and moved the ball around in the half court. What did not change was the result of each possession: it was usually a missed shot. Carolina shot 32% from the field in the first half, and 38% for the game. They were even worse from long range going 1-9 in the second half and shooting 22% for the game.

"We had good looks and you take what the defense gives you," said Zam Fredrick, who had 12 points on 3-8 shooting, 0-4 from behind the arc. "We're going to keep taking those same shots, and hopefully we'll make them the next time. We had wide open shots, uncontested, and we made a few, and missed more than a few."

Devan Downey led all scorers with 19 points, but he struggled noticeably in the first half. He scored just 3 points on 1-7 shooting with one assist, though he did have five rebounds.

"I just felt like I had to get a little more aggressive [in the second half]," Downey said. "As the point guard and the leader of the team, I'm going to do whatever it takes to win. I felt like we were being passive so I just got the motivation on my own."

In the second half, he looked like the player he was last season, going 4-8 from the field with three rebounds and three assists. He also provided a much needed defensive spark after the Panthers used a 22-4 run at the start of the second half to pull within one point at 44-43 with 13:05 left. Downey got steals on consecutive defensive possessions that led to scores and gave the Gamecocks a working margin.

"He got two steals back to back because of what other guys did," said Horn. "One of them was when we had a trap and he shot the gap, and another one was when Brandis Raley-Ross did a great job of pressuring the ball and the kid had to stop, turn, and spin dribble, and Devan picked it off. Those are the kind of steals we want him to get, within the concept of what we're trying to do."

After Downey's spark, the Gamecocks finished the game on a 29-10 run. However, the numbers told some important stories. The Gamecocks outrebounded Kentucky Wesleyan 29-19 in the first half, but the Panthers held a 12-2 rebounding edge when they made their run. For the game, Carolina had a slim 44-41 rebounding edge. They were without two key rebounders in Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow, but Horn did not see that as an excuse.

"We've been saying since day one that was going to be a concern," he said. "It's going to take all five guys on the defensive end, so that's going to be a focus regardless of who is out there, but personnel always helps."

The other key figure was the number of turnovers the Gamecocks forced. The Panthers turned the ball over 14 times, but only six turnovers came on steals. Conversely, they stole the ball from the Gamecocks eight times en route to 12 turnovers.


- Dominique Archie left the game late in the second half with a bruised left shoulder. He is expected to be fine, however.

- Had the game counted, Branden Conrad would have had a career night. He had 10 points, doubling his career high of five, and had a career-high three rebounds. "He did some good things," Horn said. "One thing about Branden Conrad is you know you're going to get a good basketball IQ. He does exactly what you ask him to do. We're going to need quality minutes like that."

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