Defensive Intensity Takes USC to 3-0

With the football team having the weekend off, the basketball team took center stage Saturday afternoon against USC Upstate. For the first half, the Gamecocks did not disappoint, taking a 47-25 lead into the locker room. The second half was anything but pretty, but the deficit was too much for the Spartans to overcome, and Carolina won 75-53.

In their first two games, South Carolina raced out to leads of 11-0 and 19-0. Saturday, the early lead was only 5-0. The Gamecocks led just 11-7 after six minutes of play, but a 13-0 run over the next four minutes made it 24-7 and gave Carolina a working margin they would never relinquish. All told, the Gamecocks shot 54% from the field in the first half while holding Upstate to 38% shooting.

"I thought our guys came out defensively with tremendous effort, which fueled our early lead," said Darrin Horn. "We saw good effort the entire game, which we were really pleased with."

The second half was a different story, and not a good one for the Gamecocks. After trailing by as many as 27, Upstate used a 12-1 run to pull within 14 with 8 minutes to play. Zam Fredrick answered with a three-pointer, and then the teams went nearly four minutes without scoring. In the second half, Carolina shot just 31% from the field, and played Upstate to a 28-28 tie in the half.

"I think we had a couple of break downs that led to some easy baskets for them," Horn said. "Offensively we weren't as good. I'm not displeased with the effort by any stretch. Part of growing as a team is learning to play with those kind of leads."

Defensively, Carolina remained solid. Despite playing reasonably well in the second half, Upstate still shot just 40% from the floor. Even better, the Gamecocks forced Upstate into 20 turnovers. All three Gamecock opponents this season have had at least 20 turnovers, which has played a major part in Carolina's offense.

"We only forced seven turnovers in the first half, but we turned a lot of them into baskets," said Horn. "That's one of the reasons we weren't as good in the second half: we weren't able to get baskets off our defense."

One game after Mike Holmes and Dominique Archie both notched double-doubles, Carolina got limited production from its front line. Archie also had four points on 2-9 shooting, and just six rebounds. Holmes had double digit rebounds again, with 12 boards, but he shot just 2-15 for four points.

"I think anytime that happens you can't discredit the defense," said Horn. "I think the more important thing to notice is that on a night where he is 2-15, he still grabs 12 boards, seven of them offensive, and contributes an assist, a block, and a couple steals."

A big reason for Holmes' struggles was his big opponent. 7'3" Spartan center Nick Schneiders came in averaging 8.5 points and rebounds, and two blocks. He scored just 8 points on 4-8 shooting, but pulled down 11 boards and blocked five shots, both season highs. More importantly, he was able to frustrate Holmes all day.

"Nick has developed into a guy that's difficult to score over," said Upstate coach Eddie Payne. "He is a difficult matchup, particularly for someone who is undersized and not that quick. Holmes is a big, strong guy, but Nick is quick enough to stay between him and the basket."

Fredrick led the Gamecocks with a season-high 23 points. Devan Downey had an efficient game with 16 points, six assists, four steals, and only one turnover. Mitchell Carter sustained a cut over his right eye, which bled onto his jersey. When he came back into the game late in the second half, he was wearing a blank #51 jersey instead of his normal #55. Attendance has declined for each game, going from an announced 11,439 to 7,231 to only 5,573.

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