South Carolinas 69-59 exhibition win over Division II Kentucky Wesleyan on Thursday contained the pieces of what the Gamecocks need for success this season.
USC came back from a deficit after playing poorly, shared the ball, dominated on defense, ran the court and shot well, especially from 3-points. But the game also hinted at areas in need of improvement: rebounding, turnovers and finishing around the basket.
I think the big thing with this team is that we want to keep focusing on playing the next play and control what you can control, coach Darrin Horn said. And being fighters whether its going your way or not going your way.
Horn started his two freshmen, who played as advertised.
Forward Anthony Gill showed his athleticism and mature skills to lead the Gamecocks with 14 points. The 6-foot-8 Charlotte native scored inside slashing to the basket and on putbacks. He made a 3-pointer and grabbed six rebounds.
The first two minutes were definitely rough with all the adrenaline pumping and running up and down the court, Gill said. My teammates pushed me through it, and we had a good time out there.
Freshman guard Damien Leonard is a sharpshooter who attempted all nine of his shots from 3-points. He scored nine points.
I shot whenever I was open, the Greenville native said, It didnt (always) go in but I felt like I was shooting good.
Forward R.J. Slawson, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, notched 10 points and nine rebounds. He also converted two 3-pointers as USC made 10 of 19 long balls.
Lakeem Jackson, a 6-foot-5 junior who played small forward in his career, started at point guard. He dished a team-high six assists but also had a team-high six turnovers. The Gamecocks had 20 turnovers which ties last seasons high.
Horn played his entire roster at Colonial Life Arena, with 6-foot-10 redshirt freshman Carlton Geathers seeing his first action for USC. The Georgetown native registered a pair of points, rebounds and blocks.
Kentucky Wesleyan led much of the first half. USC missed 16 of its first 20 shots. Forward Damontre Harris, recovering from a sprained toe, missed all eight of his shots. Still, he finished with six boards and five blocks in a performance that Horn called the difference in the game.
South Carolina was down 19-11 with less than nine minutes left in the first half and stormed back by denying Kentucky Wesleyan second chances and pouring in five straight 3-pointers after starting 1-for-8.
Cooke buried his trey at the halftime buzzer with two players on him as USC took a 33-32 lead.
I think we looked like our first game out with a lot of new guys early on, Horn said.
The Gamecocks came out strong in the second half with a 22-6 run in the first eight minutes including another four 3-pointers. South Carolina shot 54.5 percent in the second half.
We talked coming into this game that this team would be a work in progress, and I think we saw that tonight, Horn said.
USC opens the regular season on Nov. 11 against Western Carolina at Colonial Life Arena.
|Score by Periods||1st||2nd||Total|
|##||Player||p||fgm-fga||3-pt fgm-fga||ftm-fta||Reb off-def||Reb tot||pf||tp||a||to||blk||stl||min|
|##||Player||p||fgm-fga||3 pt fgm-fga||ftm-fta||Reb off-def||Reb tot||pf||tp||a||to||blk||stl||min|