Beyond the empty seats in Colonial Life Arena, this was the surest sign it was just an exhibition game: The first shot of the game was a 3-pointer by center Sam Muldrow - and it went in.
Yes, it was the same Muldrow who had never attempted a 3-pointer in his first two years at South Carolina. He tried another one late in USC's 78-55 victory against Division II Kentucky Wesleyan, and he made that too.
"He was slinging that thing tonight," USC coach Darrin Horn said.
Muldrow led the Gamecocks with 17 points on Thursday night. The stats will not count, but Horn was happy to see the aggressiveness out of Muldrow as the Gamecocks look for more scoring options.
"He told me in practice that whenever I get the ball to score and be aggressive," Muldrow said.
There were other positive signs for the Gamecocks: Freshmen Lakeem Jackson and Ramon Galloway played well, and five players scored in double figures - none of them were star guard Devan Downey.
But there were also things to work on before the start to the season on Nov. 13 against Alabama A&M.
It was a listless performance for USC, which after scoring the game's first nine points found itself tied at 15. The Gamecocks also went through several scoreless stretches as the offensive flow was lacking.
"I didn't think (the energy) was great," Horn said. "I think sometimes you play to the circumstances a little bit. Obviously it wasn't a big crowd, I didn't expect it to be for an exhibition game. But that's something we need to continue to work at. But some of that's (because of) the first time out too."
A few other big schools have had harder times in their exhibition games. No. 25 Syracuse lost to D-II LeMoyne, and UCLA needed a late 3-pointer to beat Concordia, an NAIA school, 62-61. Another NAIA school, Northwood, beat Florida International, coached by Isiah Thomas.
Jackson got the start at shooting guard, the lone opening in USC's starting lineup. But senior Brandis Raley-Ross played 25 minutes while Jackson had 26.
Galloway, another candidate to start, played 18 minutes, many of them at the point.
But the surprise ended up being Muldrow, who averaged 5.6 points per game last season. He has been counted on as a rebounder and shot-blocker, but Thursday was a sign that he will be more of an offensive option this season.
"Numbers aside, I thought he played like the guy that we think he can be in terms of just being aggressive and being a guy who looked to be a scorer offensively and aggressive defensively," Horn said.