Gamecocks Up to GW Challenge in 85-70 Win

For the first time in this young season, the Gamecocks (4-0) were challenged on the basketball court when Gardner-Webb (0-4) came to Columbia Tuesday night. Carolina showed it was up to the challenge, and after trailing early, the Gamecocks led the entire second half and were able to secure an 85-70 win.

When Gardner-Webb went up 6-5 in the first half, it marked the first time this season that South Carolina has trailed. The Bulldogs went up by as many as five before the Gamecocks wrested control of the game. They did so by asserting their strength in the lane. An early 8-2 rebounding edge helped Gardner-Webb gain the lead, but Carolina hauled in 14 of the next 20 rebounds to assert itself in the lane.

"We weren't good early, and we wish we had an answer [why]," said Darrin Horn. "they got a lot of offensive boards, but they had a lot of misses."

With the game tied at 26 late in the first half and Devan Downey on the bench with foul trouble, Zam Fredrick took over the game. He scored nine straight points for the Gamecocks, and single-handedly had a 7-0 run against Gardner-Webb. His play sparked the entire team, and Carolina finished the half on a 17-8 run, leading 43-34 at halftime.

"Coach said bring the energy, and when Devan went to the side I felt like I had to be one of the leaders and step up and do what I do," said Fredrick. "Once one person gets hot, the defense kind of focuses on you, and you just make the next pass. Other people are going to be open, and they stepped up and made their shots."

In the second half, it became the Devan Downey show. He was limited by foul trouble in the first half, but he exploded in the second half. He scored 20 of his season-high 25 in the second half, along with all three of his assists.

"One of the things you have to love about Devan Downey is he's a warrior; he always responds," said Horn. "I thought he ran our team really well. The shots he took weren't forced shots… they were within the flow of what we were doing."

"Whatever my team needs me to do to win, that's what I'm going to do," Downey said. "I felt like we needed an offensive boost, so I stepped up. It all started on the defensive end as a team.

Gardner-Webb was able to get the deficit down to eight on a couple of possessions, but the gamecock defense was always able o answer the call. After coming out sluggish, which Horn blamed for allowing the Bulldogs to take the early lead, Carolina stiffened in the second half and maintained the level of intensity Horn wants to see, holding the Bulldogs to 31% shooting and winning the rebounding battle 52-41.

"I think it was our best job of continuing to try to play," he said. "Maybe not our best play, but just continuing to try to grind it out and play the way we want to play, trust our system, and let it work to our advantage over a 40 minute period."

Notes:

- Gardner-Webb turned the ball over only 14 times, the first time this year a Carolina opponent has had less than 20.

- The Robert Wilder fan club was out in force Tuesday night, waving a large banner that read "Go Wild for Wilder." Wilder finished with one foul, one turnover, and one steal in 10 minutes of play.

- Branden Conrad scored a career-high nine points, on 3-4 shooting from behind the arc.

- Fredrick had a career-high eight rebounds.

- Austin Steed pulled down eight rebounds in the first half on his way to a career-high 11. The first half total surpassed his rebounding total for the entire season.

- And so it begins: with the sparse pre-Thanksgiving crowd Tuesday night, USC only announced the paid attendance, rather than the actual attendance.

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