Gamecocks impressive in victory over Winthrop

If once is a fluke and twice is a coincidence, then we have a coincidence. After starting the season opener on 10-0 run, the Gamecocks raced out to a 19-0 lead over Winthrop Sunday. The Eagles made it a game, but Carolina used a 27-7 run early in the second half to cruise to a 86-63 win. Darrin Horn would like to get rid of the late half lulls, but he wants to make the fast start a trend.

Over the first eight minutes of the game, Carolina scored the first 19 points. In that span, Winthrop called two timeouts and missed nine shots and two free throws. The Gamecocks were 7-12 shooting.

"We've got ten kids in our program that are freshmen or sophomores and it showed early," said Winthrop coach Randy Peele. "For some of us it was the first time in a big arena and so we lost our composure. We were three touchdowns behind and looking at another."

Winthrop clawed its way back into the game during the rest of the half, spurred by an 11-4 run, and trailed 36-24 at the break. After the early run, the story of the half was poor shooting. South Carolina shot just 35% from the field, and 1-13 from behind the arc. Winthrop was even worse, shooting 31% and going 1-6 from three. The Gamecocks also missed 7-14 free throws, including missing the front end of a one and one twice.

"I know there were a handful of them that just weren't the kind of threes that we want to be taking," Horn said. "[They were] kind of ‘I'm open, I think I can get this off' kind of threes as opposed to the kind we work on getting. I think that was some of it, but sometimes they just don't go in."

The second half was an entirely different story. Carolina used another fast start to get a big lead, this time a 27-7 run early in the half. Both teams suddenly found their shooting stroke. Carolina shot 55% from the field and a whopping 8-12 (67%) from three. Zam Fredrick made three straight threes at one point, and Devan Downey followed that with three straight of his own, finishing with a game-high 21-points.

"We had the game played at the pace that we want to play at, and knocked down some shots, which obviously helps," said Horn. "We took great [threes] in the second half."

After being outrebounded in the season opener, Carolina came back and outrebounded Winthrop in a big way, 48-34. The Gamecocks were led by Mike Holmes and Dominique Archie, who both finished with double-doubles. Holmes had 14 points and 13 boards, and Archie had 12 points and 10 boards. Evka Baniulis nearly joined them, finishing with nine points and a career-high nine rebounds.

"It was just will," Archie said. "Rebounding is about whoever puts in the most effort."

"Evka Baniulis, he's capable of getting rebounds when he wants to," said Holmes. "I think he can do it all the time if he just puts his mind to it. Me and Dominique, we're the two [main rebounders], we just need Sam [Muldrow] back to help us out."

"We just got man-handled," said Peele. "It's a higher level. When the ball hits the glass, what's called a foul in our league is not a foul in this league. You better knock them in the mouth."

Senior Branden Conrad, a former walk-on, made his first start for the Gamecocks in place of the injured Brandis Raley-Ross, who is out 3-4 weeks with a left knee sprain. Conrad played reasonably well, setting career-highs in points, assists, and steals. He scored six points on 2-7 shooting, all from long range. He also had five assists, tied with Downey for the team high, and three steals. Horn explained the decision to start Conrad over Baniulis.

"He's a senior [and] he's going to be a little bit more solid defensively, and he'll really do the things that we ask him to do," Horn said. "That's what we did tonight, and it could change the next night, or it might not."

The Gamecocks are off for a week. Their next game is Saturday, November 22, against USC Upstate at 1:00 PM.

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