CHARLESTON — Dominique Archie kept the towel over his face, even as he made the long walk from the bench to the training room. He did not watch as his team first fought without him, then eventually faded away.
Now the question is: How much longer will he be unable to help South Carolina?
USC may have suffered more than its first loss on Sunday night. Not only did the Gamecocks fall 85-70 to Miami in the final of the Charleston Classic, but Archie — the team’s leading scorer and rebounder the first four games — suffered a right knee injury.
It remains to be seen how much longer the Gamecocks will be without Archie, whose status will be re-evaluated today.
What is obvious is that the Gamecocks missed him Sunday night. USC led 9-2 after Archie’s dunk and subsequent injury. But by the end of the half, Miami led by three — and the lead reached as many as 15.
“Obviously when you lose somebody like Dominique Archie, not basketball-wise but just because of the kind of person he is, and what he means to our team, it never looked like we recovered from that emotionally, more than anything,” coach Darrin Horn said.
The result showed what those around the USC program have long known: Archie may be as important to the team as Devan Downey.
While Downey is the Gamecocks’ unquestioned star, Archie is the team’s most versatile.
His absence was felt on both ends Sunday.
USC’s lineup instantly became smaller, and Miami dominated rebounding 57-31.
Offensively, the athletic 6-foot-7 forward was the biggest matchup problem for Miami, which tends to play three guards and two posts.
Archie also was not there to provide a lanky defensive counter to Miami’s outside shooting or drives.
But Horn was more focused on Archie’s other qualities.
“The basketball part to me is irrelevant,” Horn said. “Would he have helped? Sure he would’ve helped. He’s a good player and does a lot of things for us. But his presence is what he does best for us.”
Before his injury, Archie hit a baseline 3, then dunked in an alley-oop pass from Downey to make it 7-2. A few minutes later he stole the ball near midcourt, dribbled downcourt and threw down a dunk.
Then he fell to the floor.
The pro-Gamecock crowd sat silent for a few moments. Horn walked the length of the court as he and athletic trainer Mark Rodger helped Archie back to the bench.
The Gamecocks at first managed without him, taking a 15-4 lead on the strength of Downey’s eight points. But the Hurricanes went on a 19-5 run and pulled away early in the second half.
Still, Miami coach Frank Haith said his gameplan did not change once Archie got hurt. He wanted to play zone and force USC to hit 3s.
“I know they made a lot of 3s but we didn’t want Downey in the paint,” Haith said. “And I thought we did a good job of keeping them out of the lane.”
Miami played a 2-3 zone, daring USC to win with 3-pointers. It tried, attempting more 3s than its two previous games combined.
But not enough of them went down, and Miami had too much inside.
The last run by the Gamecocks drew them within seven with just under three minutes left. But a flurry of points from Miami, in the form of a three-point play and two 3’s, ended their chances.
Downey, who finished with a team-high 20 points, was asked later to assess the loss of Archie.
“Everyone is going to have to step up,” Downey said. “Not necessarily scoring. Just people doing something extra. We’re still gonna be South Carolina basketball.”