Dominique Archie sat behind the bench in street clothes. Mike Holmes, a day after undergoing eye surgery, wasn't even in the building.
But Lakeem Jackson was there for the injury-depleted South Carolina men's basketball team. So were Ramon Galloway, Devan Downey, Brandis Raley Ross and so on, playing to their utmost.
"I could go through every guy and give you great examples of that," Gamecocks coach Darrin Horn said.
It was a game that was supposed to be about Horn facing his former team, Western Kentucky. It turned out to be about his current team, USC, coming up with a great effort under adverse circumstances, cruising to a 74-56 win on Wednesday at Colonial Life Arena.
It was USC's first game without both Holmes and Archie, each of whom are out indefinitely. In their absence, USC showed that, at least for one night, hustle can make up for a lack of height and depth.
USC (6-1) went on a 21-4 run early, led by as many as 17 and enjoyed a double-digit advantage most of the game.
"We didn't give ourselves no excuses," Downey said. "Missing two starters, two key guys, we just got it done."
Downey, the team's leading scorer, didn't have to do much. He finished with a team-high 15 points but only three points in the first half.
When the Gamecocks stormed to a big lead, it was freshmen leading the way.
By the first media timeout, Jackson had four points, three rebounds and three assists.
Galloway kept rebounding his misses and had nine points and five rebounds in the first 12 minutes.
"That's the reason that they're here," Horn said.
The Gamecocks got scoring from unexpected sources. Besides getting it done in the low post with six blocks, center Sam Muldrow hit a couple of 3s.
Raley-Ross (12 points) and Evka Baniulis (11 points) also hit timely shots.
"The words that coach Horn (used), we lost a little cushion with Mike and Dominique," Downey said. "The things that Dominique can do, you might fall asleep because you know he's gonna block it and stuff like that. Now, you know, every possession counts."
Meanwhile, Western Kentucky (2-3) struggled with its shooting. It shot 34 percent from the field, 3-for-18 on 3s and 11-for-19 from the free-throw line.
When the Hilltoppers got within nine early in the second half, they continued to struggle to make baskets. And the Gamecocks kept getting baskets to stem runs.
"Anytime you spot a lot of points early, it's just really hard to get back in," Western Kentucky coach Ken McDonald said.
Horn said the coaches preached to the players about being "counters" - players who count toward the final result. His players came through.
"We're just really proud of our guys and the way they responded to the challenge and the way it was a collective effort," Horn said.
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.