USC UPSTATE SPARTANS (0-5)
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (2-1)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: Fox Sports Carolinas
Tickets: Available at the box office
USC Upstate's probable starters: G Tony Dukes 6-2 So. (8.2 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Marquis Sloan 6-0 Fr. (4.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Carter Cook 6-5 Jr. (6.0 ppg, 3.2 rpg); F Chalmers Rogers 6-7 Jr. (5.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg); F Torrey Craig 6-6 Fr. (11.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Fr. (13.3 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Brian Richardson 6-4 Fr. (10.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Lakeem Jackson 6-5 So. (9.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Malik Cooke 6-6 Jr. (9.7 ppg, 8.7 rpg); C Sam Muldrow 6-9 Sr. (11.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina finishes a two-game homestand before taking a trip to another opponent coming off the NCAA tournament. ... The Gamecocks lead the series 1-0. ... Richardson has scored in double figures in all games this season and is shooting 50 percent from the field and from the 3-point line. ... USC leads the SEC with an average of 26 3-point attempts per game and 84 points per game. ... Backup guard Stephen Spinella has set career-highs in points in each of his previous two games. ... Darrin Horn only needs one win for his 150th victory as a head coach. ... Upstate coach Eddie Payne is a former USC assistant coach, serving under George Felton from 1986-91.
Next game: South Carolina tips off at Western Kentucky at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Brian Richardson wore his usual practice jersey and shorts, along with a healing cut under his chin and a sizable floor burn on his right shoulder.
"Getting physical, you know?" he joked, describing the ailments.
There will be no taking it easy, even on a 164-pound freshman.
As South Carolina winds up a two-game homestand tonight, coach Darrin Horn put it simply. He doesn't think the team is playing particularly well, and it's not about talent differential or simply going through a bad stretch.
The Gamecocks need more effort.
"It's obvious with this team, we've got to start understanding the importance of two things," Horn said. "One, defending and rebounding. The second thing, then doing that for 40 minutes. Doing it in spurts or a half is not going to be enough long-term for us to get where we want to go."
Many of the Gamecocks are learning on the job, not having the luxury of getting their college legs under them by watching for a while as upperclassmen take the reins. Don't get them wrong, they all love to play and are thrilled at playing so much so soon, but there will be some growing pains.
Horn realizes that but thinks that constant energy and intensity will cover a lot of fundamental mistakes. USC (2-1) has done it through three games, but only in moments.
"We have to get to work," Richardson said. "We've got huge games coming up. We've got to play 40 minutes and play throughout the game. Don't drop to the level of the competition."
As expected, USC remains searching for its offense. It's a matter of finding the go-to playmakers and seeing where everybody fits the best.
But missing shots can be helped by constant rebounding, and thus far, the Gamecocks are doing a fine job of it. They have out-rebounded every opponent this year, holding sizable advantages on the offensive glass and helping themselves work two or three shots on each trip down the floor.
Horn wants more. On offense, he wants his forwards rushing in for the second effort as one or two of his guards hang back. On defense, he wants everybody running for the board.
"That's one area we've actually been good in, but it's also the kind of thing that the minute you think you've got it figured out, you lose focus on it," Horn said. "Our bigs have to do better at rebounding, but the key to being a great rebounding team is five guys rebounding on the defensive end, especially. The one thing that we're doing probably better than anything right now is going to the offensive glass, and that's got to be kept up."
The two-game stretch after a tough loss at No. 2 Michigan State was meant to heal some wounds, but the Gamecocks get no rest. Being so young, they can't overlook anybody (even tonight's opponent, 0-5 USC Upstate), and they surely don't get an extended rest against less-than teams. A road trip to Western Kentucky looms on Saturday.
With it also being Thanksgiving, USC's maturity is being tested. The Gamecocks will have a team function to celebrate the holiday but will stay on campus to prepare.
Upstate's record doesn't look threatening, but the Spartans have traveled to Michigan and Virginia before going to a three-game tournament in Charleston. There, they lost to Wofford, Coastal Carolina and East Carolina, losing starting forward Ricardo Glenn to a broken finger in the process.
But again, USC can't overlook anybody. The challenge of keeping the Gamecocks aware of their vulnerability is as heavy as the constant reminders to give everything they have every minute they're on the floor.
"We're going to be tested tomorrow night because we're going to see a team that does some things offensively that will be a challenge for us to guard," Horn said, mentioning Upstate's preference to spread the floor and run motion with all five players. "We've got to find the guys that are going to be the most productive, not just the ones that we think can or hope are going to be."
Richardson, who has started all three games and been a wonderful surprise at two-guard, didn't ask to take it easy although his body was suffering because of it. All part of growing up.
"You have to think more, use your head more," he said. "Play smart, basically. Don't go in there trying to do something you can't do."
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