Another dominant 2nd half keys Gamecock win

Although it was a battle, Darrin Horn's USC team pulled away after halftime, eventually beating Furman 81-57. It was the last home game of the year for the Gamecocks, and the victory moved them to 8-3 on the young season.



The true freshman combo of Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway was on fire Monday night, combining for 30 points to lead South Carolina in a win over the Furman Paladins. Devan Downey chipped in with 16, and Sam Muldrow was also in double figures with 16.

"The freshmen were terrific tonight," said coach Darrin Horn after the game. "I thought Johndre (Jefferson) off the bench gave us a good presence, especially defensively. I think without any question that was Devan's best game of the year. Tonight was a night where he really made a difference on both ends of the court."

The Gamecocks were certainly in the mood for an early Christmas present, and another second half run did just the trick. USC outscored Furman by a 53-31 margin in the latter half, helping them beat an in-state opponent for the first time this year.

After an excruciating loss to Wofford on the road last weekend, the Gamecocks hit the court again on Monday for the showdown against Furman. With this being their last home matchup of 2009, Horn's USC squad was looking to not only bounce back from a loss, but set the tone heading into next year.

Early on it was the Gamecock offense that struggled. After tying for a season low with 61 points on Saturday, the USC offense was led early on by freshman Lakeem Jackson. As frustrating as the first half was for Carolina, the second half was that much more gratifying.

"I think we got a couple of easy ones, and got to the foul line," said Horn. "We got some steals, but we made some shots too. So I think it was a little bit of we played great defense, and we just made some shots."

Perhaps the Carolina players were inspired by the difficult news of Dominique Archie's season-ending knee surgery. They relied on a great inside presence early on, and despite only scoring 14 points in the opening ten minutes, 10 of them were scored in the paint.

The frosh Jackson was one young Gamecock who appeared motivated by his team's loss, helping to lead the way for a depleted squad. USC is still waiting on a real timetable for the return of forward Mike Holmes. After a quick start inside, Carolina went cold shooting the jumper, allowing Furman to close the lead to 2 points at 21-19.

Although the Gamecocks were scrappy in the first half with seven steals, their rebounding suffered. Already the team missed Archie, who was not only an extra scoring threat inside, but an experienced post presence. When the jumpers weren't falling, the Gamecocks were struggling and a string of nine straight missed shots allowed Furman to close the gap and eventually take their first lead of the night at 24-23.

Despite being limited to 8 points early on, Downey was able to give his team a slim 28-26 lead with an easy layup as the teams went to half.

Even with the strong second half, USC was outrebounded by a 36-31 margin. It was the sharpshooting of Ramon Galloway that helped Carolina finally pull away. Galloway also helped the bench players outscore Furman's by a 30-16 margin.

Scoring was once again an issue in the first half with Downey and Jackson leading the way with 8 points apiece. The senior-freshman combo is one that combines scoring with size that the Gamecocks will have to rely heavily upon as the season advances.

A quick run by the Gamecocks, much like the Richmond game, helped them separate from a Furman team that led them in rebounding, but was bothered greatly by USC's pesky defense in the 2nd half. Galloway's three pointer helped widen the lead after Furman closed to 35-34. After that, Horn's men went on a 14-2 run to widen the gap and establish a lead they would not relinquish.

The Gamecocks again went cold in the first half from downtown, but were greatly aided by three Ramon Galloway 3-pointers during their second half run. Heating up from long range in the second half, as well as second half runs, has carried the team in wins against Richmond and Furman.

Furman got as close as 10 points at 49-39, which simply prompted the ‘Cocks to go on another run, and widen their lead to 71-51 with five minutes left in the game. Galloway came up big in both instances, and made all four of his 3-pointers in the 2nd half.

After that, the Gamecocks cruised to the final margin of 81-57. In addition to shooting 65% from the field in the 2nd half, Carolina shot 46% from downtown after the break.

As for the loss of Archie, Horn said that in the end, he hopes it will force his squad to come together and get better as a team.

"I still think we have a chance to be a really, really good team," added Horn. "Like we have talked about before, it just lessens our margin of error. You just look down the stat sheet, and you look at effort and it shows up tonight."

The Gamecocks will be in action again for their final contest of 2009 on December 30th, heading north to face Boston College Eagles of the ACC.


Notes:

- Horn said after the game that "we'll do whatever Dominique wants us to do" in regards to the possibility of Archie seeking a sixth year of eligibility.

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