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January 1, 2011They knew it would be a learning process, and it is.
South Carolina has shooters. The veterans on the team have proven what they can do and the newcomers have been around long enough to show off their skills.
What the Gamecocks need are scorers.
Through 12 games, only freshman Bruce Ellington has established himself as a consistent scorer. In an 85-70 loss to Boston College on Saturday, Ellington was more of the same, leading the Gamecocks with 21 points on a variety of drives to the basket or outside jumpers.
Nobody joined him.
USC put three others -- Lakeem Jackson, Ramon Galloway and Malik Cooke -- in double figures but Jackson and Cooke only got to that point when the game was well out of hand. Galloway scored his rather early and was 5-of-12 from the field to do it.
The Gamecocks (8-4) are getting production from most everybody on the roster, but it's been one game here and one game there. They need a constant interior presence and Sam Muldrow is sometimes that, but then he has nights like Saturday, where he scored no points and had one rebound in 18 minutes.
Cooke and Galloway are coming off the bench in an effort to provide more energy as Damontre Harris has cracked the starting lineup, with no real change in their stats. Jackson will get his points on putbacks and acrobatic moves to the basket, but can't find his rhythm more than 5 feet from the hole.
The team's best shooter, Brian Richardson, is also locked in a shooting slump. After averaging around 10 points in the early games, Richardson is 8-of-37 from the field since, including 1-of-9 from the field and five points on Saturday.
With so many new faces, coach Darrin Horn is mixing and matching, trying to find the right combinations for each situation. What he is stressing are the other parts of the game, not scoring, since the Gamecocks can create easier shots if they focus on the other end of the floor.
"We keep saying it, we're going to keep saying it, we have to defend and rebound for us to be our best," Horn said, "and we didn't do that to the level we needed to against a really good Boston College team tonight."
Jackson and Ellington, speaking afterward, agreed. Jackson pointed out the Gamecocks were always one rotation behind when the Eagles began kicking the ball around the perimeter until one of their 32 3-point attempts opened. Ellington said it was just a matter of time before the points develop.
"Everybody on the team can score," he said. "We don't look for one person to score the ball."
At present, he's doing it all. But he's going to need some help going forward.
SWITCH: Harris started his second straight game and had two points, four rebounds, a turnover and a foul in 17 minutes. The big man has been a rebounding presence early on but has often struggled to score; on Saturday, the Gamecocks had no interior game, either on looks or production.
A 6-foot-9 wide-body, Harris provides some bulk on the block to start the game and Horn is hoping to see his offense match his defense. The highest-rated individual of USC's latest recruiting class, starting Harris lets Horn bring Cooke and Galloway off the bench.
"He's a big athletic body and we feel like we're going to get from Malik Cooke what we're going to get from Malik Cooke," Horn said.
Cooke has refined his game lately, focusing on defense first and letting the offense come to him. Before, he would try to make a lot of something out of nothing and get in foul trouble; now, he always shows up in the rebounding chart before the points.
Cooke finished with 13 points, seven rebounds, two steals and a block in 29 minutes.
PICK ME UP: Galloway picked off a lazy pass and began running downcourt, thinking he could try out another of his patented soaring dunks, but saw a BC defender matching his speed and moving to either hack him or cut him off. The sophomore perked up his speed and his ears.
"I called it out," Jackson claimed. "I told him to throw behind him."
Galloway blindly flipped over his head as he plunged out-of-bounds. Jackson took the outlet, leaped over the back of the defender and laid it in.
A RETURN TO YESTERYEAR: The way Boston College would set up its half-court, zipping passes around the perimeter, sometimes going in and then back out before an open 3 appeared, was reminiscent of how Horn's predecessor liked to run his offense. Dave Odom often set up in the half-court and kicked it around the perimeter, hoping for a 3 and trying to go inside with 10 on the shot clock.
It never worked too well for Odom's teams but the Eagles (11-3) put on a clinic. They made 13 of their 3s and upped their season total to 340 attempts.
NO WORRIES: Ellington mildly sprained an ankle in the last game against Jacksonville State but was fine on Saturday. Not even wearing an extra brace, Ellington played 38 minutes.
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