Dominant 2nd half sparks USC past GSU
While point guard Devan Downey did not have his best offensive output, the rest of his teammates picked up the slack, as five total Gamecocks finished with double figures. Senior forward Dominique Archie was a star for USC, racking up 18 points and 10 rebounds while leading Carolina in minutes at 31.
"We did it pretty much being carried by Dominique Archie," said Head Coach Darrin Horn following the win. "Eventually you all will start listening to me when I talk about those things. The kid can play, and he's special. I think what we saw tonight is something that I've known for a long time he was capable of."
Coach Horn was complimentary of the complete effort by his team, as two of those players with 10+ points came off of the bench, guards Brandis Raley-Ross and Ramon Galloway.
A sluggish start against the feisty Golden Eagles slowed the Gamecocks down for the opening 15 minutes, as they led for much of the first half. The Gamecock offense finally hit its stride late in the half, closing with 22 points in the final 8 minutes of the half. Still, USC only held a slim 43-36 halftime lead. Guard Devan Downey led the Gamecocks with 10 points at the break.
"We knew they were athletic, we knew they had guys that could shoot the basketball, just do things," said Horn.
Once again, freshman Lakeem Jackson was in the starting lineup, and scored his first career points as a Gamecock on two free throws, giving USC an early 2-1 advantage.
The Gamecocks were held in check by a physical defense in the opening five minutes, as they scored just 5 points, coming on the two Jackson free throws and a three pointer from Dominique Archie. USC trailed 10-5 when Mike Holmes was called for an offensive foul coming down the floor, and momentum was squarely on Georgia Southern's side.
With a baseline jumper from Galloway, the Gamecocks trimmed the deficit to two at 12-10. But the Golden Eagles were not done, going on a 6-1 run and making the score 18-11 almost halfway through the first half. Georgia Southern was winning the rebound battle 12-7, and had 4 steals to go along with that. However, with a respondent effort, USC held the rebounding advantage at the half, 20-18.
Coach Horn noted the spark that true freshmen Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway provided for the Gamecocks. The two young playmakers finished with 9 and 10 points, respectively.
"It was good to see Lakeem and Ramon play like we thought they can," stated Horn. "(They were) just out there playing and making stuff happen."
Although they were down a good deal of the first fifteen minutes, the Gamecocks battled back to take a halftime lead. After the tie, they went on a 10-5 run to take the lead at 29-24. Three pointers from Evaldas Baniulis and Galloway helped the Garnet & Black to a 43-36 halftime advantage.
After opening the season on a 16-0 run against Alabama A&M, the Gamecocks did it again, this time opening the second half with a 16-0 run to take a 59-36 advantage.
The Eagles were able to make a run to trim the lead to 61-45, but the Gamecocks put them away late. Georgia Southern was still fighting down 70-57 with 8 minutes left, but South Carolina ended any chance of a comeback with a 7-0 run to pull away.
The Gamecocks unfortunately gave up 24 turnovers, despite the seemingly dominant offensive effort. Horn said that protecting the ball is one of the main areas his team needs to get better at heading forward in the season.
"No question, and not because of the amount, but because of how we turned them over," noted Horn. "(We) come out of a timeout after we've drawn up the press offense, and guys (are) just not cutting hard and doing what they need to do to get open, try and make plays that are there. The good news is it's early, and those are things you correct through practice, and watching film, and those kind of things."
With the 90-66 win, the Gamecocks move to 2-0 on the season. They will travel to the lowcountry to play in the Charleston Classic starting on Thursday against La Salle. The game will be carried on ESPNU.
When asked if the Gamecocks will try to correct any mistakes in the tournament, Horn said his team will be "just trying to win" in the upcoming tournament.
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