USC Finds Late Touch to Swat Hornets

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- Video: Brian Richardson and Lakeem Jackson
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South Carolina had four in double figures, shot 51.8 percent from the field and again won the rebounding total.
The biggest play came on a whistle.
Delaware State's Marques Oliver reached in on Bruce Ellington with 8:43 to go on Wednesday, getting called for his fifth foul. No longer having to worry about the most dangerous scorer on the floor, the Gamecocks cruised to a 74-61 win.
"That took a lot of pressure off our bigs," said freshman Brian Richardson, who scored 12 points. "He was going to the basket a lot."
Never heard of Oliver? Not many had. The sophomore forward was averaging 9.5 points per game, yet nearly doubled that in the first half (17). He had 21 points before fouling out, and the Hornets, which had ceded to simply clearing out for Oliver over the middle 20 minutes, suddenly had no one to turn to.
The Gamecocks (5-1), which already had Malik Cooke, Richardson and Lakeem Jackson in double figures, continued doing what they were doing while working senior Johndre Jefferson into the plan. Jefferson finished with a season-high 11 points, six from wide-open dunks, as USC won the first meeting between the two schools.
"We wanted to speed things up and make it a little helter-skelter," coach Darrin Horn said. "We just had a little lull."
The Gamecocks spaced out their scoring, Cooke, Richardson and Jackson scoring 12 each and everyone but Eric Smith scoring at least one basket. They assisted on 14-of-29 field goals and forced 16 turnovers, but were otherwise in for a fight.
Playing a team that was similar to it in using its speed and 3-point prowess to stay competitive, USC was out-running itself in the first half. The Gamecocks had nine turnovers in the first 20 minutes and 15 for the game, which offset another eight-block night and a scant three-rebound differential.
"We didn't particularly want to sit in the half-court and just guard," Horn said. "Try to come out and pressure and be active. Early, obviously, it got some really good things for us. For whatever reason, our energy and our emotion dropped a little bit and you just can't press without that."
Pass after pass was being fed into the paint and turned into a Delaware State possession, which Oliver began taking severe advantage of. He would either score or get to the line, where he was 9-of-10, and the rest of the Hornets were doing just enough to help him out while USC tried to keep pace.
Trevor Welcher's jumper with 6:23 to go gave the Hornets a lead, but USC fought ahead with 1:37 showing. DSU (2-3) answered, going into the locker room with a 37-35 lead.
"We really just challenged our guys at halftime," Horn said. "'Hey, you know what? We're going to have to come out and just guard. Sit out in the half-court and just defend.'
"To our players' credit, I think they've responded every time there's been a challenge like that."
Cooke immediately drove and was fouled as the second half began, and he made one free throw to cut the deficit to one. Then Jackson went to the floor to corral a loose ball from Casey Walker, retrieved it and went up for a dunk, which he slammed home while the whistle blew.
Oliver had arrived late on defense and leaped right into Jackson's back, while Jackson's hands were already on the rim. He was called for a technical, his third personal foul, and the Gamecocks got two more shots plus the ball.
Richardson, the team's best shooter from the line, aced both for a 40-37 lead. The Gamecocks never trailed again.
"Bruce got a hand on the ball," Jackson shrugged. "I just picked it up."
"That got us going a little bit," Horn said.
The Hornets kept it close, but USC began hitting and maintained a six-point lead. The Gamecocks led by seven when Oliver was called for his final foul, which clinched it; USC spent the rest of the night getting Jefferson in position for a fine game.
The Gamecocks held a dangerous 3-point shooting team to just 4-of-19 from the arc and won by 13 despite their best scorer recently, Ramon Galloway, only collecting seven points after being hampered with early foul trouble. Jackson led the team with eight rebounds while four others got at least four each.
"Just different individual challenges," Horn said. "When we don't do what we can do individually, it's hard for our team to be good. We've got a lot to learn, but I think we do have a tremendous amount of pride in that locker room."
USC hosts rival Clemson at 4 p.m. on Sunday as part of a doubleheader. The USC women host Savannah State at 1 p.m.
NOTES: Colonial Life Arena came to life late in the second half, when DSU's Desi Washington airballed a 3-pointer, then sunk one. He ran past the student section with a finger in front of his lips, before airballing another shot later on as the crowd continued to hound him. He finished with 16 points, smiling at the crowd when he hit his last 3. The Hornets trailed by 17 at the time. ... The Gamecocks again used the same starting lineup (Ellington-Richardson-Cooke-Jackson-Sam Muldrow). ... Six players had at least one steal. Jackson led the team with three. ... The Hornets are 0-7 all-time against the SEC while USC is 19-1 all-time against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
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