Gamecocks get final tune-up before SEC play

The Gamecocks hosted Wofford Monday night in their final non-conference game before SEC play begins on Saturday. It was Carolina's third game in seven days, and as a tune-up, the results were mixed. Carolina was never really threatened in the second half, but they also failed to put Wofford away, winning 78-61.


The first half was defined by competing runs. Wofford scored the first six points of the game. Darrin Horn called a timeout to get a spark, and the tactic worked. The Gamecocks answered with an 18-4 run. The Terriers still had some fight in them and came back with a 10-4 run of their own to cut the deficit to 22-20. The Gamecocks still had one more run in them, and outscored Wofford 12-0 over the next four minutes. South Carolina led 39-24 at the half.

"I thought we looked a little bit tonight like it was our third game in seven days in terms of our energy level," said Horn. "Our energy level was not what it needed to be, but to our guys' credit, they did find a way to play through it."

Wofford opened the second half on a 9-2 run, but again, the Gamecocks had the answer. A 12-3 run put Carolina back up 53-36. That 17 point margin would hold for the remainder of the game, as the Terriers were unable to mount another run.

"Our team found a way to fight through and do what they had to do," Horn said. "All in all it was very positive."

The Gamecocks protected the ball well, committing a season-low six turnovers. Defensively they forced Wofford into 16 turnovers, which led to 20 Carolina points. Despite both teams pulling down 29 rebounds, the Gamecocks were clearly the stronger team in the paint. USC had six blocks, and scored 42 points in the paint, compared to 22 for Wofford.

Senior guard Zam Fredrick reached the 1,000 point milestone late in the first half. With 2:26 to play, Fredrick nailed a three pointer from the wing to reach the milestone. He finished with nine points.

"I ain't even know until they told me in the huddle after the game that I'd reached 1,000 points," Fredrick said. "Not that many people reach 1,000 points. The thing is, I reached it in two and a half years, two and a quarter years, my first year didn't really count. Now that I think about it, I feel more proud of it."

Noah Dahlman scored 18 for Wofford to lead all scorers. Devan Downey had 17 points to lead the Gamecocks, plus five assists and three rebounds. Brandis Raley-Ross (season-high 14 points), Mike Holmes (10 points), and Austin Steed (10 points) joined Downey in double figures.

"I brought my beautiful children with me, my five year old son and my nine year old daughter, and they're just as clueless as I am on how to guard Downey," Young said. "What a fabulous player. I have the utmost respect for his game, for his demeanor, for what he does for their team."

Wofford was without leading scorer Junior Salters, who has been sidelined the last two games with a pulled muscle in his gluteus. Salters is expected to return for Wofford's next game. Young was insistent that having Salters would not have changed the outcome of the game, but there is no doubt losing your leading scorer hurts.

"We have a way of inventing injuries at our place," said Young. "We've had to mix and match, and we're playing two freshmen point guards together. It would have been nice to have him here."

The Gamecocks will have the rest of the week off, and then open conference play Saturday against Auburn.

"For us, it's always [been] about league play," said Horn. "I think in any league it's about league play. If you don't do well in league play, the rest of the stuff doesn't matter, I don't think it matters what league you're in, but especially in a league like ours, as strong as it is."


Notes:

- Steed tied his career high in points set against Jacksonville State.

- Carolina shot 50% from the field for the game, and was the picture of consistency. The Gamecocks shot 15-30 in the first half, and – wait for it – 15-30 in the second half.

- Robert Wilder made a three pointer in the second half (and Wofford immediately called a timeout). It was Wilder's first field goal of the season, and second of his career (he also made a three-pointer last season). He is 2-4 shooting free throws this season.

- Carolina's previous season low in turnovers was 11, in the last game against Baylor.

- Carolina's 11-2 record is the best non-conference record for the gamecocks since they went 13-1 in 2003-2004.


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