Gamecocks focused on what they can control

With a first-round bye in the SEC Tournament, the South Carolina basketball goes into Tampa as one of the top team's in the league. The Gamecocks are looking to stay focused on controlling the things they can so they can come out of the tournament with an NCAA Tournament berth. For full details, read below.

South Carolina coach Darrin Horn has emphasized to his team the importance of doing the little things right over the course of the season. It's a philosophy that got the team their first 20-win regular season since 2003-04. It got them their first SEC Eastern Division title since 1997. So don't expect Horn or his Gamecocks to change anything as they head into this week's SEC Tournament in Tampa, Fla.

"What we want to do is stay focused on what matters to us. We want to try to win an SEC Championship and the only way to do that is for us to be locked in on the basketball stuff that we need to do well to give ourselves a chance to win," Horn said.

Horn will be the first to say that his team didn't do the little things well in two losses to Vanderbilt and Tennessee late in the season. Those losses cost USC the No. 1 eastern division seed in the SEC Tournament.

But the Gamecocks rallied from their only conference home loss of the season on Thursday to beat Georgia 68-51 in the regular season finale. That win along with a buzzer-beating shot by Alabama against Tennessee gave Carolina a share of the Eastern Division.

But Horn hopes the real result of the win and conference title will be a renewed sense of confidence in his team.

"I think it was important. We talked about that before the game and after the game that we wanted to play well. Not just win but play well and felt like we were kind of ourselves and playing up to our capabilities heading into conference (tournament) play and I felt we were able to do that on Saturday," Horn said.

The Gamecocks earn a first-round bye in the conference tournament for the first time since 1998 which gives the team an extra day off and shortens their road to a possible SEC Tournament Championship. It also gives the team a chance to scout their possible second round opponent. USC will play the winner of the Georgia-Mississippi State game on Friday at 3:15 p.m. at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Horn says that while having those luxuries are nice, they mean nothing if his team fails to come out and what needs to be done to win.

"I think the bye is good more importantly because it says you were good during the year which hopefully gives you some confidence heading into it. But at the same time the scouting is nice but once its conference tournament action, the big question on the conference call was ‘boy it seems like its really wide open.' Well, all conference tournaments are wide open," Horn said. "For us we're going to go in and prepare the way we always prepare and we will scout but that doesn't help us if we don't come out and guard and that doesn't help us if we don't come out and rebound. So those are things we'll do to try to be prepared and give us our best chance but it all comes down to blocking and tackling to borrow a football term."

In the end, Horn's knows that while the Gamecocks have accomplished something major by claiming a piece of the division title, there is still much more left to do in order to make the season truly a success.

"I think it's great. It's something that hasn't been done here in a long time. I think it's a testament to our players and their resiliency and toughness throughout a conference season," Horn said. "It's something that is good but moving forward from this it doesn't mean a whole lot."

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