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February 9, 2012

USC-Tennessee Hoops Extra



VIDEO: Bruce Ellington, Brenton Williams


KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Anthony Gill spoke on Tuesday about how he didn't feel he needed to demand the ball, even when he was shooting as well as he had.

Following Wednesday's 69-57 loss at Tennessee, Gill would do well to politely ask for a seat on the bench.

Gill was 0-for-6 from the field and 1-for-4 from the line for one point on Thursday, depriving the Gamecocks of what had been a steady post presence. Combined with the no-show from center Damontre Harris, who had been playing at an all-SEC clip for the past few games but was 1-for-7 for two points on Wednesday, USC got near-zero production from the post.

USC was able to hang in the game due to its three main guards scoring a combined 34 points, but ultimately had to start settling for 3-pointers as the Volunteers spurted ahead. Gill missed a wide-open jumper late that helped enable UT's 7-0 run to ice the game.

Gill was seemingly sent a message beforehand when he was taken out of the starting lineup for the first time all season. Sophomore R.J. Slawson got his first start in 51 career games and made the most of it, scoring five points early and finishing with nine, and five rebounds.

"Just changing things up a little bit," coach Darrin Horn said of the switch.

Gill stayed out of foul trouble but couldn't get anything to fall. A matchup problem due to his height and ability to score inside and out, Gill would get the ball with his back to the basket, but hesitate once he did. The pauses allowed Tennessee to man up on him, and when Gill made his move, the Volunteers could physically push him out or bump him as he tried to separate.

BILL OFF THE BENCH: Brenton Williams had another strong game, scoring 11 points on 3-for-6 shooting. The sophomore guard seems to be all the way back from a knee injury that cost him five games in November and December.

"I'm feeling pretty confident in my game," he said. "I'm just trying to do what's best to help my team."

Williams drained both of his 3-point attempts and showed no fear of driving the lane so he could get to the free-throw line. The Gamecocks are actually one of the best free-throw shooting teams in the league, but can't get to the line nearly often enough to make it count.

Williams, too small to play the two and more suited to play point guard, should continue to come off the bench. Starter Damien Leonard scored in double figures for the second straight game.

THE BROW VS. THE STACHE: Tennessee's Skylar McBee is challenging Kentucky's Anthony Davis.

Not in game - Davis is a strong candidate for National Player of the Year and is already having his name inscribed for SEC Defensive Player of the Year. In facial hair.

While Davis' fearsome unibrow has been part of his shot-blocking finesse and intimidating presence in the paint, McBee has made a name for himself with his distinctive look. With shaggy hair and a mustache straight out of a "Starsky and Hutch" marathon, McBee resembles the Marlboro Man sans hat or cigarette when he steps onto the floor.

McBee led the Volunteers with 18 points on Wednesday, stroking four 3-pointers.

FOILED IN FEBRUARY: The loss knocked Horn's USC record in February/March to 9-24, including 4-18 over the past three seasons.

STREAKING: The Gamecocks lost to Tennessee for the 10th straight time, which is by far their longest losing streak against a conference opponent. Kentucky and Mississippi State are next on the list, with five each.

USC hasn't beaten the Volunteers since Feb. 17, 2007, the second year of the Bruce Pearl era. Horn has yet to beat Tennessee or Mississippi State since his arrival at USC, going 0-7 against the former and 0-4 against the latter. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs tussle in Columbia on Feb. 29.

THE TREND CONTINUES: With its eighth SEC loss of the season, USC guaranteed that it will have its 16th .500 or less league finish. The Gamecocks have only been in the SEC for 21 years.

USC finished 15-1 in 1996-97 and 11-5 in 1997-98, both under coach Eddie Fogler. Fogler also had an 8-8 year in 1995-96.

Dave Odom had one non-losing SEC season, going 8-8 in 2003-04. Horn went 10-6 in his first year at the helm.

SEC STANDINGS
Team SEC Overall
Kentucky 10-0 24-1
Florida 7-2 19-5
Vanderbilt 6-3 17-7
Mississippi State 5-3 18-5
Alabama 5-4 16-7
Ole Miss 4-4 14-8
Arkansas 4-5 16-8
Tennessee 4-5 12-12
LSU 3-6 13-10
Auburn 3-7 13-11
Georgia 2-7 11-12
South Carolina 1-8 9-14
Wednesday's games
Georgia 81, Arkansas 59
Tennessee 69, South Carolina 57
Vanderbilt 76, LSU 61
Thursday's game
Ole Miss at Mississippi State

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