Hoops preview: USC set to host Furman

After a two game sojourn to the far away lands of Charleston and Princeton, the Gamecocks (5-1) return home Friday night to take on a familiar foe, the Furman Paladins (1-5). The two teams have not met since 1999, but this will be the 123rd meeting between the Palmetto State rivals. Carolina got back to its winning ways against Princeton, and is looking to start a run going into the exam break.

After suffering the first defeat of the season against College of Charleston, Darrin Horn wanted to see how his team would respond going right back on the road against Princeton. South Carolina responded in a big way, pulling away in the second half to win 84-58, one of the worst home losses ever for the Tigers. Maintaining strong play through the second half is not something the Gamecocks have done especially well this season.

"We had tremendous focus," said Horn. "Our guys did a good job of locking in on what we felt like needed to happen to play well up there. It's the first game where we've had a lead and then continued to do the things we needed to do to build it. That's really hard to do. Those things are positives."

The Paladins have struggled mightily this season, with their only win coming over Division III Emory. Furman struggles in nearly every aspect of the game, averaging just 63 points per game, 20 less than Carolina. They do not shoot well (43.6%) or defend well (47%), and fail to force turnovers (4 steals per game). Despite starting 6'10" Alex Opacic and 6'9" Brandon Sebirumbi, the Paladins are outrebounded by their opponents. Of course, being a coach, Horn sees only the potential traps with Furman.

"Defensively they're very solid, and they're different from us in how they play," he said. "They're a team that runs a lot of different things. It's going to be a challenge for us defensively because it's different from what we've seen for three or four games."

Gamecock guard Brandon Raley-Ross continues to be sidelined with a sprained left knee. There is no set timetable for his return, but the initial prognosis of 3-4 weeks would mean he could return against North Carolina Central on December 16, but at this point, Horn said only that he is hoping Raley-Ross can return "before Christmas."

"I wish I had an answer for that," he said. "No one wants to know more than I do."

Friday night's game is part one of a basketball double-header. Dawn Staley's women's team will take the court against High Point following the conclusion of the men's game. After winning the Cancun Thanksgiving Tournament, the Lady Gamecocks dropped an unusual day game at Wake Forest to drop back to .500 at 3-3. Neither game will be televised.

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