Gamecock Hoopsters Dominate Season Opener

South Carolina has beefed up its schedule in order to enhance its RPI this season and avoid last year's debacle of being left out of the big dance despite winning 21 games, tying for first place in the SEC East, and going 10-6 in the SEC. But don't mistake opening opponent Alabama A&M for one of the beefier opponents. The Gamecocks dominated this one from the opening tip.

South Carolina opened up a 16 point lead before the Bulldogs scored their first basket. The home team hit half a hundred before retiring to the locker room at halftime with a 52-28 lead, scoring more points in the opening half than the Bulldogs did for the game. They were led in the first half by Devan Downey with 18 points and slammin' Sammy Muldrow with 11.

"We came out focused and played with a great deal of energy and emotion," Coach Darrin Horn said. "For the most part we did a good job of maintaining that."

The home crowd saw a solid performance by the returning veterans, and watched with interest to see how the newcomers would fare. Freshman Lakeem Jackson started, and fellow freshman Ramon Galloway as well as juco transfer Johndre Jefferson also saw a fair amount of playing time. Stephen Spinella saw action late.

The highly recruited Jackson was scoreless in his official debut, missing all six shots he attempted, but he did contribute three assists, two blocks and a steal. Galloway was one out of six shooting, made two free throws, and four rebounds. Speaking of Jackson and Galloway, Horn said, "Obviously (Jackson) didn't make shots, and I think Ramon was a little that way too. Freshmen come out and to try to do everything right, instead of just play," Horn said. "They both looked a little bit ragged, but the reason we like them is that they still do the basketball stuff – rebound, assist, make passes... They're talented and they're guys who are going to be important for us. It will be a growing process."

Jefferson had the best game of the newcomers, scoring eight points, most of them under the basket. His first basket came when he took the ball away from three defenders and went to the basket with authority, a move the Gamecocks could use on a regular basis this season. He also had seven rebounds and three blocks.

Downey only played 22 minutes, but scored better than a point a minute, finishing with 23 points and four assists. "I thought he did a really good job of being aggressive," Horn said. "I think we came out and played with a great deal of energy and did a good job of maintaining that energy throughout."

Carolina's other returning senior starter Dominique Archie also played limited minutes, finishing with 15 points and five rebounds in 23 minutes of play. Muldrow finished with 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks on the night, and center Mike Holmes had 14 points and four rebounds.

"The combination of Sam and Mike inside, if they can continue to combine for 27 [points] and 11 [rebounds] every night, that is the kind of production that can help us be successful," Horn said. "The guys off the bench came in and did some good things. We were really pleased in the first half that when we subbed, the energy level went up."

Carolina circus shots by Jefferson that were blocked via flagrant fouls by the visiting Bulldogs drew the biggest reaction from fans in the second half, and the visitors held the ball to keep the Gamecocks under 100 points for much of the last quarter of the game.

Evan Hilton and Casey Canton led the Bulldogs with 13 and 12 points respectively.

Carolina returns to action Monday night at the Colonial Life Arena to face Georgia Southern.

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