Gamecocks find defense in 30-point win

The USC men's basketball team had their final tune-up for the SEC schedule on Tuesday night, returning to Colonial Life Arena for a matchup against the Longwood Lancers. USC, which had two difficult losses after the Christmas holiday, was looking to bounce back strong against a squad that entered the game just 3-12 on the year.

Although the competition may have been downgraded, Coach Darrin Horn said that he was still pleased with the way his team played Tuesday night in their win over the Longwood Lancers.

"It's always good to get a bounce back win, especially heading into league play," said Horn. "To do it and do it by being better in the areas we wanted to be better in regardless of the opponent was good."

Carolina was able to use some timely 3-point shooting as well as a suffocating defense to prevent Longwood from ever gaining momentum in the opening frame, and that allowed them to hold a 47-24 halftime lead. The Gamecocks shot 53% from the field and held Longwood to just 31% shooting in the first half.

"The biggest positive from tonight is that we were much more efficient offensively," said Horn.

Despite losing two 6'7" players in Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, the Gamecocks held a distinct size advantage over the Lancers, whose tallest player was 6'7'' forward Billy Robinson. Evka Baniulis' 3-point shooting and Devan Downey's improved shooting from the field helped the Gamecocks hold an early 20-12 lead midway through the first half.

After a couple of rough shooting efforts against Boston College and Baylor, Devan Downey used the downgraded competition to his advantage. The senior point guard added 18 points in the game, with 16 coming in the first half.

South Carolina's defense also came to play in the game, limiting Longwood to only 24 points in the first half and 58 for the game. After giving up 85 points in each of their last two games, it was perhaps the improved defensive effort that was most pleasing to Horn and his staff.

It was more of the same for USC in the second half, as the Gamecocks continued to score and use defense to put the Lancers out of the game. Carolina's defense did not let up whatsoever, and keyed the 30-point win with a strong effort in all 40 minutes.

Coach Horn said he was particularly pleased with the effort of his defense in the game. Midway through the second half, it was Austin Steed that gave the Gamecocks a spark and allowed them to keep their foot on the pedal. Steed made four straight shots midway through the half, and allowed USC to stretch its lead to 30 points at 68-38, and even higher as the game continued.

The Gamecocks shot an even 50% from the field for the game, and added 42 points in the paint. Although Downey led the team with 18 points, Ramon Galloway also contributed 12 and Evka Baniulis added 15 points on 5-8 3-point shooting.

"I don't think I've had 5 in a game all year, have I?," asked Baniulis after the game. "I knew it was going to go in tonight. I put the work in, and it paid off."

Baniulis also said that this team knows it will have to live and die on the perimeter as they will most likely face a size deficit against most SEC teams that are big and physical.

Although they opened with a four guard lineup, Horn said that his team is continuing to work hard and will keep battling through lineup changes.

"Our guys are working hard," said Horn. "We're almost at a point where we have to refocus on exactly what we need to do to be successful. I don't know if we'll come in and overwhelm anybody necessarily. That said, I think we'll win league games on the road and at home, especially when our students get back."

After two difficult losses, as well as the dismissal of a key player, this win was just what the Gamecocks needed as they head into a brutal 16-game SEC schedule. That slate will begin this Saturday as the team hits the road to face the Auburn Tigers.


- Guard Ramon Galloway made his first career start on Tuesday night. It was also the second career and second straight start for forward Johndre Jefferson.

- Tuesday's victory marked Coach Darrin Horn's 30th win as the head man at South Carolina.

- Freshman guard Stephen Spinella tied career highs in points with 5 and rebounds with 3.

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