Gamecocks roll over NC Central

If there was any drama about how the Gamecocks (7-1) would respond coming off the long layoff for exams, it only lasted about five minutes. North Carolina Central (0-12) led 4-0, and was within 13-10 before the Gamecocks woke up and cruised to a highlight-reel filling 90-43.


Coming in, NCCU was ranked 341 out of 343 teams by CollegeRPI.com, and it was easy to see why. The Eagles were outplayed by South Carolina in every aspect of the game. The Gamecocks forced NCCU into 34 turnovers against nine assists, 30.4% shooting, outrebounded the Eagles 44-36, and attempted 28 free throws (making 21) compared to nine (making five). Carolina also set season bests for points allowed and points allowed in a half (20 in the first half).

"The encouraging thing was we played zone the last 15 minutes of the game, which we have not done a lot of," said Darrin Horn. "We had pretty good activity."

The score was 13-10 after eight minutes of play, and it appeared the Gamecocks could be in for a fight. But Devan Downey and Mike Holes took over and sparked an 18-0 run over the next five minutes.

"We came out a little flat; the defensive effort wasn't really there," said guard Zam Fredrick. "It seemed like we were pressing, everybody was trying to make something happen instead of just letting it happen and taking care of the things that we can take care of."

The Gamecocks had 12 turnovers in the first half, but gave the ball up just five times in the second.

"I thought early on in this game that we looked like we had been off for 12 days," said Horn. "We did a really poor job of taking care of the basketball, and in the second half our energy was much better."

Holmes finished with 14 points, 4 rebounds, a steal and a block, but most of his damage came in the first half. He scored all of his points before the break, and played just five minutes in the second half as he was able to turn things over to Mitchell Carter.

"We talked about getting it inside, and he got a couple of offensive rebounds off what we normally do," Horn said. "I think the more encouraging thing is that when Devan made that run at the beginning to get things going, those first two were a direct result of Mike doing a good job running the floor and opening things up."

Carter made the most of his chance, scoring a career-high eight points. He also grabbed a career-high four rebounds as part of a dominating effort in the paint by the entire team. Austin Steed scored just three points, but he hauled in 12 rebounds, a career-high. All told, the Gamecocks outscored NCCU 38-16 in the paint. The domination was so thorough, that after the game, Eagles coach Henry Dickerson said his team does not even belong in the same conversation with Carolina.

"I don't think you can measure a good team against us," he said. "We're too small, not physical enough."

Guard Brandis Raley-Ross made his return to game action after suffering a left knee sprain in the season opener. He did not start, but entered the game with 14:46 to play. Raley-Ross was noticeably favoring his left knee, and had just two points on 1-5 shooting.

"I didn't think he looked good at all," Horn said. "I thought he looked like he had been out as long as he'd been out. It was good to have him out there. Physically he's ready to go, but it's obvious that his sharpness and his focus on the things that he needed to do [is not there]."


Notes:

- The 47 point margin of victory is not the biggest in Gamecock history. Last year Carolina defeated The Citadel 103-42 at the then Colonial Center. Coincidentally the Bulldogs come to Columbia on Saturday as the Gamecocks' next opponent.

- The 34 turnovers are the most ever by a Carolina opponent. The turnovers led to 48 points, almost half the total, and 18 fast break points. Branden Conrad contributed to the effort with a career high five steals.

- The Gamecocks had 20 assists on 30 field goals, led by Downey's six, tying his season high. He also chipped in a game high 23 points and seven steals, tying his career and season high.

- Carolina shot 75% from the free throw line, the best percentage of the year.

- Robert Wilder made a pair of free throws in the first half, his first points of the season. The Gamecocks are now undefeated when Wilder scores: his only other points came on a three-pointer that set the final margin of the 92-52 win over Campbell last season.

- In letting NCCU off to a 4-0 lead, the Gamecocks failed to score the first points of a game for the first time this year.


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