GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Just when it was pegged …
Sophomore Brian Richardson was banished to South Carolina's bench, for good, it seemed. He was inserted into the starting lineup so that Damien Leonard could keep coming off the bench, but when Richardson couldn't get anything going offensively or defensively, coach Darrin Horn risked disrupting Leonard's rhythm anyway and started him.
Richardson didn't play in the last two games, but when Leonard was hit for two quick fouls in Thursday's 74-66 loss at Florida, Horn needed a shooting guard. Richardson was available.
So he went in, scored five points, showed a new side to his game by driving the ball and also contributed two rebounds.
"I think it's a situation where we kept telling our guys, whether you're playing a lot or not at all, or whatever it might be, you got to keep coming and working," Horn said. "Brian, to his credit, has done that. I thought he did some really good things tonight."
Leonard, saddled with foul trouble, only attempted one shot (he missed). Horn continues to try and find a consistent shooting guard, but Richardson and Leonard are hit-and-miss.
Brenton Williams had another good game, with eight points and four rebounds, but he's more of a point guard and can't separate himself enough to earn a look at the two. The Gamecocks may be forced to perhaps start R.J. Slawson around Damontre Harris, Malik Cooke, Anthony Gill and Bruce Ellington just to get something consistent - Slawson has shown flashes of being that rangy inside-out shooter, but often can't create his own shot.
GET LOOSE, BRUCE: It seemed like Ellington was about to stick it to Florida one more time, after he torched the Gators for 23 points in his first trip to the Stephen C. O'Connell Center (last year). Ellington scored eight of the Gamecocks' first 10 points.
Then, as has been his habit this year, he cooled off.
Ellington couldn't get a shot off or get one to fall until the final minutes on Thursday, when his 3-pointers began to find the bottom and he ended with 15 points to lead the team. The long spell in between, where had trouble controlling the ball as well, contributed to another stretch of offensive futility for the Gamecocks.
Ellington did seem to learn from his past couple of games, by not driving when he knew Florida's giants would camp in the lane, wait and swat his shot back to half-court. But by sticking outside and only shooting from 3, he was part of a 6-of-21 performance by the team, when he made three.
TV'S GREAT … RIGHT?: It's USC's turn on the SEC's Thursday-Saturday rotation, where the Gamecocks tipped off at Florida at 9 p.m. and then have to be back in Columbia for a game hosting No. 1 Kentucky at 6 p.m. on Saturday. The schedule, dictated by the SEC's television package, has caused quite a bit of grumbling among the league's coaches.
Florida's Billy Donovan, the league's longest-tenured coach, sounded off about it during the SEC coaches' teleconference a couple of weeks ago, mentioning that it seemed unfair. When travel consideration is involved, it often can be, which is proven by the Gamecocks' case.
It would be understandable if every team in the league had to do it, but not everybody does. Kentucky, LSU and Auburn are each excused from the rotation, while five teams are stuck with doing it twice. Poor Ole Miss has to do it three times.
USC's turn is the only time the Gamecocks have to do it all year, but it may be against the two toughest opponents in the league, and there is travel in between.
STUDENT-ATHLETES: The team posted its second-highest grade-point average in program history during the fall, reeling in a cumulative 2.932. Horn revealed afterward that it would have been the highest on record, except for one criteria.
Ellington pulled a 3.1 during the fall (he said), but it counted toward the football team's GPA, since that's who provided him with his scholarship. Horn said that if Ellington's GPA had been included with the basketball team, it would have notched the highest mark on record.
"One thing we can guarantee to parents is that their sons are going to graduate," Horn said on Tuesday."
E-WADE: Thursday was the third straight game that Eric Smith did not play. Williams is Ellington's backup at point guard and Smith, since losing his job at the Auburn game, hasn't budged from the bench.
Team SEC Overall
Kentucky 8-0 22-1
Florida 6-1 18-4
Vanderbilt 5-2 16-6
Arkansas 4-3 16-6
Mississippi State 4-3 17-5
Ole Miss 4-3 14-7
Alabama 3-4 14-7
Auburn 3-5 13-9
LSU 2-5 12-9
Tennessee 2-5 10-12
Georgia 1-6 10-11
South Carolina 1-6 9-12
Florida 74, South Carolina 66
Vanderbilt at Florida, 1 p.m.
Arkansas at LSU, 1:30 p.m.
Auburn at Mississippi State, 4 p.m.
Kentucky at South Carolina, 6 p.m.
Georgia at Tennessee, 8 p.m.
Ole Miss at Alabama, 8 p.m.
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