USC Wants To Keep Year Going

When: 10 p.m. today
Where: Breslin Center, East Lansing, Mich.
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Fr. (8.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Brian Richardson 6-4 Fr. (10.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg); F Lakeem Jackson 6-5 So. (13.0 ppg, 10.0 rpg); F Malik Cooke 6-6 Jr. (13.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); C Sam Muldrow 6-9 Sr. (20.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
Michigan State's probable starters: G Kalin Lucas 6-1 Sr. (18.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Durrell Summers 6-5 Sr. (17.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg); F Draymond Green 6-7 Jr. (12.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); F Delvon Roe 6-8 Jr. (5.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg); C Garrick Sherman 6-10 So. (8.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg)
Notes: The anchor game of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. ... South Carolina's first road game of the year and perhaps the toughest environment it will play in. ... The Spartans lead the overall series 3-2 and won the last meeting 59-56 during the 1999 Puerto Rico Shootout. Other than that, the teams have not met since 1973. ... MSU has not lost a November home game since 1986, when David Robinson led Navy to a 91-90 win. ... Each team won its season opener, USC 94-79 over Elon and the Spartans by 30 over Eastern Michigan. ... USC coach Darrin Horn and MSU assistant coach Dwayne Stephens were assistants on the same Marquette teams from 1999-2003, under another former MSU assistant, Tom Crean. The Golden Eagles went to the Final Four in 2003 with Dwyane Wade on the roster.
Next game: South Carolina hosts Radford at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Perhaps it's a bit premature, but some are already calling 2010 the greatest year in South Carolina athletic history. After a baseball national championship and the football team winning its first SEC East championship over the weekend, the giddy exuberance of Gamecock fans has spilled throughout Columbia.
The team that started the year wants to keep it going.
"I see (that)," sophomore forward Lakeem Jackson said on Monday. "Last year was a good win and hopefully we get another (tonight)."
It was the men's basketball team that started the trend in January, beating then-No. 1 Kentucky 68-62 and causing a massive (and expensive) court-rushing celebration. That led to a sizzling run of success against No. 1 teams -- the Gamecocks' baseball team beat No. 1 Arizona State on the way to a College World Series championship and the football team dethroned No. 1 Alabama on Oct. 9.
USC won its first major national title over the summer, and the football team clinched a division title three days ago. Each came after wins over No. 1.
The Gamecocks' basketball team didn't get their title after beating No. 1 last year -- they didn't even get a postseason berth. They want to make up for that this year, and get a chance to take a huge step toward that goal tonight.
USC travels to No. 2 Michigan State for the "anchor" game of ESPN's College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. The Gamecocks (1-0), stocked with youth and expected to have a building year, could leap weeks forward, development-wise, tonight.
There's always a major upset this time of year, and the first weekend of the season didn't have one.
As Steve Spurrier once said, "Why not us?"
"Is it an unbelievable opportunity?," coach Darrin Horn asked. "Absolutely it would be. We're not going to have a chance to pull that off if we don't prepare the right way. I think our guys are aware of that."
USC got off to a solid start against Elon last week, spurting ahead of the Phoenix early and surviving a mini-run late in the game. Six players scored in double figures, led by Sam Muldrow's 20 points, and the Gamecocks pretty much did what they wanted to do.
It probably won't be the same way tonight. Michigan State (1-0) is a popular pick for a third straight Final Four and walloped Eastern Michigan by 30 points in its season-opener. Guard Korie Lucious, the starting point guard during the Spartans' Final Four run, will be eligible tonight after missing an exhibition and the season-opener due to a summer arrest, and the Spartans also return star guard Kalin Lucas.
With such a young team, some questioned why Horn would schedule this kind of game. Simple. He did it for three reasons.
"We're on national television in November. I don't know what the stat on that would be, but that's great exposure for us," Horn said. "Hasn't happened since I've been here, I at least know that.
"We're going against a team that, obviously it's a terrific team, but I think more importantly, we're going against a program that has the kind of program that we're trying to be. They've done it by building it, and have been incredibly consistent."
The third reason? His players asked him to.
"A lot of us went to him and asked him to put a lot of big teams on the schedule for this year," Jackson said. "We thought we could get a lot of good wins."
Horn heard that and called ESPN, saying he wanted to be on TV against a good team. The network didn't pick just a good team, it picked a team that has been to six Final Fours in 12 years, including the last two, won the 2000 national championship and came in second in 2009.
The Gamecocks will have their full roster for the first time, after Ramon Galloway and Stephen Spinella missed the exhibition with injuries and Damontre Harris served a one-game academic suspension against Elon. There will probably be some "youth moments" -- Jackson joked that one of the younger players, who had never been on a plane before, thought they were going to bus the 13 hours to East Lansing -- but the Gamecocks feel they can compete.
And perhaps give the "greatest year in USC history" another milestone.
"I think what's happening is we're finding that when you build something and you're committed to doing it step by step, and believe in what you're doing, then positive things can happen," Horn said, referencing the baseball and football glories. "Any time one of us is having success, I think it's a positive and something all of us can build on."
NOTE: Horn confirmed what has reported since the summer about freshman center Carlton Geathers most likely being a redshirt this season. Horn said Geathers could play if he was needed, but the coaching staff was in the mode to keep him on the bench this year. "He's a young man that came in battling some issues and had some nagging knee and foot stuff, really, since he's been here," Horn said. "That's something we're evaluating."
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