It was the kind of game when an official could step out to fix his pants during the game, and no one would be the worse for wear.
That rather unusual occurrence happened twice — during South Carolina’s 90-43 victory against North Carolina Central.
There are no official records for referee wardrobe malfunctions, but the game did see a record for turnovers by a USC opponent. That was hardly a surprise given that N.C. Central is now 0-12 and one of the worst teams in the country according to the RPI.
It was USC’s largest margin of victory since a 61-point win against The Citadel last season. The Gamecocks forced 34 turnovers, and the record was set with eight minutes remaining in the game.
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“In a game like this, you want to work on things like that,” USC guard Devan Downey said. “You want to see how your defense has grown. We had a break, we hadn’t played in something like 12 days. I think it showed in the first few minutes of the game, but we were able to get it going.”
Downey tied his career-high with seven steals, to go with a game-high 23 points and six assists. And that was despite playing 24 minutes, a career-low for the junior at USC, who played his freshman season at Cincinnati.
The rout afforded USC guard Brandis Raley-Ross time to test his knee during extended playing time. Appearing for the first time since spraining his knee in the season opener, Raley-Ross had two points and two rebounds in 15 minutes.
Physically, the junior looked fine. But he drew harsh words in the final minutes from coach Darrin Horn for what Horn called “an incredibly bad, horrible, selfish shot that we’re not going to tolerate regardless of the score.”
That caused Horn to yank Raley-Ross despite the game being in hand. Raley-Ross started the season opener, but he does not appear close to reclaiming that role.
“I didn’t think he looked good at all,” Horn said. “I thought he looked like he’d been out as long as he’d been out. It was good to have him out there. Physically he’s ready to go, but it’s obvious the sharpness and his focus on the things he needed to do (was lacking).”
Raley-Ross was not made available for comment after the game.
There was never much promise of this being competitive. And after a sluggish start, USC made sure it wasn’t, going on a 21-2 run in the first half and leading by 23 at the break.
Then it got worse.
Thanks to a series of steals, USC opened the second half by scoring nine points in the first 30 seconds, the first seven by Downey. Zam Fredrick’s 3 made it 12 points in barely over a minute.
USC scored 16 points in the first 3:30. N.C. Central committed 10 turnovers and took only five shots in the first five minutes of the half.
The game was enough in hand that when an official had to fix his pants early in the second half, the game wasn’t stopped. He stepped into the media room and returned a short time later, having only missed a possession.
“At the beginning of the game there were only two officials out there; They said one of them was out back getting dressed,” Fredrick said. “So he probably had some kind of malfunction.”
3-pointers: N.C. Central 4-19 (Briscoe 3-8, Branch 1-6, Randall 0-1, Walters 0-1, Glasker 0-1, Davis 0-2). USC 9-24 (Fredrick 3-9, Downey 2-4, Baniulis 2-5, Conrad 1-1, Archie 1-3, Raley-Ross 0-2). Turnovers: N.C. Central 34, USC 17. Officials: Hartzell, Whitehead, Crawford Jr. A: 9,065.