Nine hours before Bruce Ellington was scheduled to take a flight to Orlando to rejoin the South Carolina football team, he showed he was getting used to playing basketball again.
In a game that started with three USC dunks, Ellington scored five of the Gamecocks season-high 11 three-pointers to lead the Gamecocks with 17 points in a 57-45 win over Wofford on Wednesday. South Carolina (6-6) has won four of the six games since last years leading scorer traded his helmet for high-tops.
But now Ellington will spend four days running receiving routes and plotting Wildcat quarterback plays as the football team prepares for the Capital One Bowl. He will miss the Dec. 31 game versus USC Upstate but plans to play against S.C. State on Jan. 3.
Neither head coach Darrin Horn nor Ellington, who played two sports at Berkeley High School, is not concerned about the point guard missing a beat just after having his best scoring effort of the season.
I dont think theres going to be a couple steps back because Im getting in the gym everyday working on my game, said Ellington, who is scheduled to take a 5:30 a.m. flight to Florida.
Ellington was not the only Gamecock who showed hes getting into the flow in Wednesdays win.
Freshman shooting guard Damien Leonard scored 14 points by hitting four of his six three-point tries. A pair of consecutive three-pointers from Leonard late in the game helped end any possibility of Wofford coming back after the Terriers stayed within two possessions for a good part of the second half.
Leonard stuck out his tongue after making his last three-pointer, a trademark in high school but something he has not done while struggling in his first games at USC. The Greenville native has made 10 of his last 19 long-range attempts (52.6 percent) after going 12-for-51 (23.5 percent) to start the season.
Horn said Leonard has stopped rushing his shots -- even when he was open. Leonard has gotten hot while coming off the bench, a new experience for the former J.L. Mann star. He said he gets motivated by just being confident in seeing what my team needs me to do, so when I get in, I can take advantage of it.
USC took a 29-21 halftime lead with a 13-2 run in the final five minutes spurred by a pair of Ellington 3-pointers. The run also included a 3-pointer that RJ Slawson, who has been slowed while recovering from a foot injury, hit as the shot clock expired -- which Horn called a prayer.
Wofford (7-6), which had won four of its previous five games, nearly took the lead in the second half but could not stop Ellington and Leonard hitting from three-point range. USC held Wofford to 5-for-19 from three-points (26.3 percent), including 2-for-10 from prolific sharpshooter Kevin Giltner.
The Gamecocks won despite being outrebounded 34-26 and getting a season-low three points from leading scorer Malik Cooke. Damontre Harris, USCs 6-foot-9 big man, did a little bit of everything in finishing with six points, seven rebounds, five blocks, three assists and two steals. Anthony Gill grabbed eight second-half rebounds after getting none in the first half. And USC shot 44.4 percent while posting a season-high 14 assists.
I think a month ago if Malik Cooke had a 1-for-9 (shooting) night, regardless of whether Bruce was playing or not, it would have been borderline impossible for us to win, Horn said. To see the response we had from a lot of different guys, I think that shows were growing.
Smith 2-5 0-0 4, Crowell 4-8 1-2 9, Cochran 5-10 0-0 12, Giltner 4-14 0-0 10, Loesing 3-6 1-2 8, Byrd 0-1 0-0 0, Wagener 0-0 0-0 0, Skinner 0-6 2-6 2, Rinksalis 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-50 4-10 45.
SOUTH CAROLINA (6-6)
Gill 1-5 0-0 2, Cooke 1-9 1-1 3, Harris 3-6 0-0 6, Jackson 3-4 0-3 6, Smith 0-3 0-0 0, Richardson 0-0 0-0 0, Ellington 5-7 2-2 17, Leonard 4-7 2-2 14, Slawson 2-3 1-2 7, Geathers 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 20-45 6-10 57.
Halftime: South Carolina 29-21. 3-Point Goals: Wofford 5-19 (Cochran 2-6, Giltner 2-10, Loesing 1-2, Byrd 0-1), South Carolina 11-20 (Ellington 5-6, Leonard 4-6, Slawson 2-3, Gill 0-1, Smith 0-2, Cooke 0-2). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: Wofford 34 (Crowell 7), South Carolina 26 (Gill 8). Assists: Wofford 10 (Loesing 5), South Carolina 14 (Jackson 4). Total Fouls: Wofford 13, South Carolina 9. Technical: Harris. Attendance: 8,152.