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THREE POINTS about South Carolina’s first SEC win — a 56-54 victory against Alabama — including how the Gamecocks caught some breaks. (And not just USC President Harris Pastides’ prediction that the Gamecocks would win Wednesday.)
But first a quick update on coach Darrin Horn’s status. Plus, plan to visit GoGamecocks at 11:30 a.m. Friday for a live online Q&A about USC hoops:
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Pastides added his voice of support for Horn on Wednesday before the win over Alabama, saying the coach is doing the right things to put the program on track. That along with athletics director Eric Hyman’s belief that the team (9-10, 1-4) is improving and showing hope are clear messages that, barring anything unforeseen, the fourth-year USC coach will return for a fifth season.
1. Backsliding frontcourt: Alabama has lost four straight SEC games as its veteran forwards JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell have struggled.
Green and Mitchell, hampered by foul trouble and an aggressive USC defense on Wednesday, managed 17 points and 12 rebounds in 49 minutes. Green, who also injured his ankle during the game, tied his season-low with six points.
“You had a team that played inspired basketball,” Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. “They played as a team. We didn’t.”
2. Long-distance breakup: USC won despite missing a season-high 26 3-point shots. Freshman Damien Leonard went 2-for-10, while sophomore Brenton Williams missed all four of his long-range tries. Even Bruce Ellington, who scored the game-winning layup, was cold, going 2-for-7 on 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks are shooting 27.8 percent from three-points in league play — not far from the team’s all-time low since South Carolina joined the SEC.
The perimeter problems were countered by USC playing its most energetic 40 minutes since beating Clemson in early December.
3. Rise of the Phoenix: Key stats from Wednesday’s win were similar to USC’s 58-53 loss at Elon.
South Carolina grabbed an above-average number of rebounds — 40 and 37 in those contests after getting 32 per game this season. The Gamecocks took care of the ball with nine turnovers against the Tide — two more than the season-low set at Elon.
But the Gamecocks’ 3-pointer performance versus Alabama (5-for-31 for 16 percent) was the season’s second-worst behind Elon (3-for-27 for 11 percent). And USC allowed a season-high 39 rebounds to Alabama — one more than what the Phoenix grabbed.
The difference was discipline USC lacked in November. The Gamecocks were called for 24 fouls in the loss at Elon as the Phoenix went 20-for-28 from the line. They were whistled for 10 fouls in the win over Alabama with the Tide going 8-for-12 from the line.
Ellington said his layup with 1.3 seconds left was his first last-second game-winning basket. RJ Slawson grabbed a team-high nine rebounds (including six from the offensive glass) in 15 minutes. Freshman Anthony Gill tied a personal season-high 33 minutes by staying out of foul trouble. He also grabbed nine boards. The starting lineup of Gill, Ellington, Leonard, Malik Cooke and Damontre Harris each were on the floor for at least 29 minutes against Alabama — the first time this year Horn had five players on the court for so long. Sophomore guards Eric Smith and Brian Richardson did not play for the first time this season. Junior forward Lakeem Jackson is seeing his playing time drop. He’s getting fewer than 13 minutes in SEC games.