GamecockCentral.com beat writer David Cloninger traveled to New Jersey to cover the USC-Princeton basketball game.
PRINCETON, N.J. -- It seems to be becoming a rite of every game.
Tipoff, South Carolina gets the ball, Dominique Archie dunks.
The acrobatic forward did it again during Tuesday's 84-58 shellacking of Princeton, rocking the rim early. Less than four minutes in, Archie took a feed from Evka Baniulis and one-handed the ball through the hoop.
Archie had a similar dunk during the Gamecocks' last game, an 82-80 overtime loss at College of Charleston. He drove the baseline and took his man with him, waiting until he was under the basket before he rose.
Then, he one-handed the ball through from the back side. This time, he approached from the front.
Archie had a two-handed jam to close the first half and finished with eight points and eight rebounds. He started his 67th straight game -- he has started every game he's played during his career.
BACK AND FORTH: Forward/center Mike Holmes had another productive night against the Tigers, scoring 13 points with five boards and nabbing two steals. He put the Gamecocks' fans on their feet by finishing an alley-oop dish from Branden Conrad with a vicious flying two-handed dunk.
Yet, Holmes continues to battle consistency. When he's on, he's on.
When he's off, he's way off.
"Just keep working on it in practice," Holmes said after going 6-of-12 on Tuesday, almost 10 percentage points ahead of his .406 shooting mark coming in. "Like coach says, just take my time.
"Sometimes I think I'm forcing it and sometimes I think I just need to take my time."
Holmes has got surprising touch for a big man, able to hit medium- to long-range jumpers from the 3-point line to the paint. But it seems when he's got his back to the basket and tries to post up, he loses some control once he spins and puts the shot up.
Against the Tigers, his first attempt was a 10-footer off the back rim. Holmes took the ball at the free throw line and launched but didn't have enough spin on it.
He sunk a tip-in on an offensive rebound but then got the ball on the block with two people behind him. He dribbled once and tried to force his shoulders in, but Princeton wasn't fooled and pushed him back.
The shot was off the mark.
But later on, Holmes got the ball in almost the same situation, one man behind him, and converted. He bounced once, lowered his left shoulder and spun with his right arm up, pushing the ball off the glass and through. That followed a simple catch-bounce-shoot from the block on the first possession of the second half.
Holmes has started every game and is first in the SEC with 5.2 offensive rebounds per game. He ranks second in the league in overall rebounding with 10.6 per game and has posted two double-doubles.
OUT WITH THE OLD?: Through USC's first six games, to no one's surprise, guard Devan Downey has been the Gamecocks' leading scorer with 19.2 points per game. He had another 22 against the Tigers on Tuesday.
The difference this time was he didn't wait to take over. From the beginning, it was all Downey, all the time.
Archie controlled the opening tip and tossed to Downey, who out-raced the backpedaling Tigers for a easy lay-up. After a 3-pointer was off the mark, Downey penetrated into the lane four more times during the rest of the half for either a ball off the glass or one of those stop-short-and-loft-over-the-D shots.
In USC's previous five games, it seemed as if coach Darrin Horn wanted to let the other players get the ball early so it wouldn't be Downey with all of the burden. The redshirt junior guard took over in the second half during a few games, when the opponent began to creep back into the picture, but it was Downey's choice when to flip the switch.
On Tuesday, the light was on as soon as he stepped off the bus.
"Over a period of time, we feel like we can take tolls on the other team and just ram it down their throat for 40 minutes," Downey said.
BE AGGRESSIVE, BE, BE AGGRESSIVE: Baniulis scored 15 against the Tigers by going 6-of-7 from the floor, two shots coming where he got the ball high and drove the lane. Baniulis has made a reputation for himself by being an outside threat, but said before the season began that he grew up as a post player, never shooting a 3-pointer until he came to the U.S.
He ran in twice against the Tigers and hit each time, also going down the middle on a fast break and hitting a reverse lay-in.
SERIES OVER: Horn said the series with Princeton would not be ongoing. USC was at Princeton to pay back a home date the Tigers granted the Gamecocks in the 2006-07 season.
HUH?: For some reason, guard Brandis Raley-Ross was listed in the first-half box score although he wasn't at the game. He and suspended forward Sam Muldrow did not travel.
It made it more confusing when Raley-Ross was whistled for a foul in the second half. The announcers conferred and then awarded the foul to Austin Steed.