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January 30, 2010

USC shifts its focus to Georgia

The euphoria of beating No. 1 Kentucky is over, and South Carolina has to focus on the latest test today against a pesky Georgia team that has played better than its record indicates.

Darrin Horn said nothing really changed in his world. He understands that his players probably have talked about the Kentucky win with everybody they have encountered, but he is pretty sure not many people have asked them about playing the Bulldogs.

So when USC returned to practice Thursday after an NCAA mandated day off on Wednesday, he preached the message he has all season: Try to be the best you can every day.

He understands that may sound boring, but he feels the message was received.

"Practices have been good," Horn said. "But between now and then, I don't think anybody is going to be talking about the game (today) that they run into. I think it's going to be all about what was in the past. The problem with the past is it's over."

The challenge now for USC (12-8, 3-3) is putting that behind them and facing a pesky Bulldogs team that has been competitive under first-year coach Mark Fox.

In five SEC games, Georgia (9-9, 1-4) has dropped three games by a total of 15 points to Kentucky, Mississippi and Mississippi State. A week ago, Georgia routed then-No. 8 Tennessee by 15 before losing to Florida by 16 in their most recent game Wednesday.

The Bulldogs have beaten Georgia Tech and Illinois out of conference.

"I think they've played well all year," Horn said. "Their last several games and SEC record doesn't indicate that in terms of wins and losses. Every game that they've played, they've been in with a chance to win down the stretch."

The Gamecocks' strategy will start with how to contain Trey Thompkins on the inside. The 6-10 sophomore has led Georgia in scoring five of the past six games and has averaged 20.2 points per game over that span.

Sam Muldrow - who helped hold Kentucky's Patrick Patterson to five points - Austin Steed and Johndre Jefferson will have the task of trying to keep Thompkins and 6-foot-11 Albert Jackson in check.

"Trey Thompkins is an outstanding player inside," Horn said. "He's very versatile and scores in a variety of ways. He definitely presents a matchup issue for us."

Steed, who is not known for his shot-blocking ability, had a key block of Kentucky's John Wall in the closing minute of Tuesday night's victory. He feels the Bulldogs frontline poses the same type of problems the Wildcats did.

"They are big inside just like Kentucky is, so we have to push them off the blocks and play tough defense," Steed said.

Horn finally saw his inside trio play to their capabilities against Kentucky. They only combined to score 17 points but collected 25 rebounds, including 11 on the offensive end. That is the type of production Horn and the staff has been waiting to see for quite some time.

"We told our three bigs (Thursday), I didn't think any of them were beyond their capabilities nor had career games," Horn said. "I thought they all played well, but nobody had 20 (points) and 10 (rebounds). That was the first time all three of them had done it on the same night."

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