Cold shooting dooms USC vs. Friars

ashain@thestate.comDecember 1, 2011 

South Carolina Gamecocks guard Bruce Ellington (23) shoots against Providence Friars forward Brice Kofane (13) during the second half of action Thursday night at the Colonial Life Arena. Providence won, 76-67.

TRACY GLANTZ — tglantz@thestate.com

South Carolina’s poor long-range shooting and inability to stop transition baskets against Providence on Thursday led to its third consecutive defeat and worst start to a season in 47 years.

USC (2-5) went 6-for-30 from 3-point range — accounting for 42 percent of all shots taken by the Gamecocks. The misses gave the Friars opportunities to score quickly and end any hope of a comeback in the 76-67 loss. Providence (6-2) controlled the tempo and led for all but the first minute of the nationally televised game that led off the Big East/SEC Challenge.

The Gamecocks did not get the ball inside-out to create shots on the perimeter in the first half, something that was clicking better in recent games.

“They were in a zone, so we fell in love with the 3-point shot,” USC point guard Eric Smith said. “We’ve just got to try to focus on playing inside-out like the coach asks us.”

Horn said the team attacked the basket well with a season-high 20 offensive rebounds but did not put back enough shots. USC had 21 second-chance points and was fouled a season-low 10 times.

“We’ve got to go more aggressively,” Horn said.

The game marked point guard Bruce Ellington’s return to basketball. Last year’s leading scorer missed the team’s first six games while playing football. Ellington showed his trademark speed and energy but struggled to score six points on 3-for-11 shooting. He missed all four of his 3-point attempts while playing 27 minutes.

“I thought he really helped our offense in the second half just in terms of getting the ball in the paint and being a threat coming off some of the ball-screen action,” Horn said. “And there were times he looked a little rusty. He’ll be fine. He’s already asking to get back into the gym.”

Ellington said his teammates gave him a boost in the second half when USC scored 40 points.

“I was pretty comfortable out there,” he said.

Ellington played together with Smith at times with the team’s struggling shooting guards on the bench. Damien Leonard and Brian Richardson combined to shoot for 2-for-17 and failed to make a 3-pointer in 11 attempts. Leonard, a freshman from Greenville, has gone scoreless in consecutive games. They made 300 3-pointers in practice this week, Horn said.

“At some point, it’s a matter of you’ve got to make some shots (in games),” the coach said.

Horn said Smith and Ellington could defend the dribble and provide better offensive spark. Ellington can create scoring chances and Smith has been scoring well. Ellington’s backup last season scored 16 points — second to forward Malik Cooke’s 21 points, his fifth consecutive game in double figures.

After Providence took a 12-point lead early in the second half, a push by USC’s defense helped cut the deficit to four with less than nine minutes left. But soon after, Smith fouled Bryce Cotton after he made a 3-pointer. The Friars went ahead by nine points when Cotton made the free throw and never looked back.

As USC could not convert opportunities into baskets down the stretch, Providence made several transition baskets against the Gamecock press. The Friars led fast-break points 16-4. Providence became the fifth opponent in a row to make at least 40 percent of its shots, including 3-pointers, against USC. The Friars had five players in double figures.

The Gamecocks are off to their worst start since 1964 — coach Frank McGuire’s first season at USC. South Carolina was swept over the weekend in the Las Vegas Invitational, losing to then-No. 1 North Carolina and Southern California.

USC travels to Clemson (4-2) on Sunday.

PROVIDENCE (6-2) | Henton 6-9 3-3 18, Giplaye 0-2 1-2 1, Coleman 4-9 10-13 18, Cotton 3-8 5-5 13, Council 7-14 1-2 16, Kofane 0-1 0-0 0, Goldsbrough 0-0 0-0 0, Dixon 4-7 2-2 10. Totals 24-50 22-27 76.

SOUTH CAROLINA (2-5) | Gill 3-6 1-1 7, Cooke 8-12 2-2 21, Harris 0-1 0-0 0, Smith 6-13 1-2 16, Leonard 0-5 0-0 0, Richardson 2-12 1-1 5, Ellington 3-11 0-0 6, Jackson 2-4 0-0 4, Slawson 2-8 4-4 8, Geathers 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-72 9-10 67.

Halftime: Providence 34-27. 3-Point Goals: Providence 6-11 (Henton 3-3, Cotton 2-4, Council 1-3, Coleman 0-1), South Carolina 6-30 (Cooke 3-5, Smith 3-8, Slawson 0-1, Jackson 0-1, Ellington 0-4, Leonard 0-5, Richardson 0-6). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Providence 34 (Henton 8), South Carolina 40 (Slawson 8). Assists: Providence 16 (Council 6), South Carolina 9 (Cooke 3). Total Fouls: Providence 10, South Carolina 19. Attendance: 7,476.

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