Horn: USC moving forward without Holmes

USC Men's Basketball Coach Darrin Horn was answering questions from the media Monday during the weekly SEC coaches teleconference. Horn's team is coming off two straight losses after Christmas, falling to Boston College and Baylor. The team received more bad news this week as forward Mike Holmes was dismissed from the team due to "repeated violations of team rules."

The Gamecocks, whose record overall now stands at 8-5, play Longwood Tuesday night and open SEC play this weekend on the road against Auburn.

Immediately, Coach Horn addressed the challenge his team will face after losing Holmes and versatile forward Dominique Archie this season. Archie went down with a knee injury in an early season contest against Miami. Holmes was thought to return after recovering from a facial injury, but violations of team policy were too much for him to overcome.

"For the first time, with some injuries and the dismissal of Mike Holmes, we know exactly what we're working with," said Horn. "We've got some challenges ahead of us because everyone knows how difficult league play is. But we're excited to move forward. Our first test is on the road, which is difficult. We're having a lot of fun coaching this team, and we're excited about what's next."

While every basketball team will suffer from injuries throughout a season, Horn said it is very important for his team to adjust properly to injuries and dismissals. The team has already been giving heavy minutes to new faces like Lakeem Jackson, Ramon Galloway, and Johndre Jefferson.

"The thing that talent does for you, we talk to our team about it, the thing talent does is that it gives you some margin for error. Those things become even," added Horn. "When you have roster issues, the little things become that much more important. Things were already important, they just become magnified now. In reality that's where we've been with our program since we got here."

Even though his team is facing a struggling Auburn team this weekend, Horn said that the league is continuing to get better and will be a challenge for everyone this year. Auburn enters the game with South Carolina with just an 8-6 overall record.

"I think it's going to be a battle for everybody," said Horn. "I think all too often we get into looking at schedules, etc. It looks to me like everybody's better. That means upgraded talent, teams having everybody back. For two months our team is going to have to strap it on and get ready to play every week."

Coach Jeff Lebo will lead the Auburn Tigers against the Gamecocks this weekend. Auburn is a team similar to South Carolina in that they have lost a number of key contributors from last year, and are struggling to adjust to injuries in the early going this season.

"It's very difficult when you have a plan and you lose guys in the season you were expecting to have in there," said Lebo. "You have to change things on the fly. We're playing some guys that are in different roles. It's always hard when you lose guys, (because) one guy in basketball can make a huge difference for you, and when you lose guys in the middle of the season it can be hard to make changes."

Lebo also said he felt for the Gamecocks as well as other teams around the SEC that are trying to adjust to playing guys they may not have envisioned earlier in the year.

"We've had some key guys in our league be dismissed or have some issues, and that throws a wrinkle in some things," said Lebo.

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