Ramon Galloway was not told he was going to get his first college start on Tuesday. He realized it when he noticed his number among the five on the scoreboard.
"In practice, I was kind of in the first group," the South Carolina freshman said. "I didn't really think of it as me starting. I just thought they were trying something different."
Very different, as it turns out. The move worked for USC in its final nonconference tuneup, an 88-58 victory against Longwood.
Now the height-depleted Gamecocks hope it works in SEC play.
USC (9-5) has been without Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes for eight games. But with both Archie and Holmes out for the season, and after tinkering with other big men, coach Darrin Horn decided to go with a super-small lineup and embrace the team's biggest remaining strength.
Galloway became the third guard in the lineup, and 6-foot-5 Lakeem Jackson shifted to power forward.
"It's our best lineup right now in terms of being able to defend the way we need to defend," Horn said. "It gives us another scoring option out there. We think it's the best way for us to start off."
Senior forward Evka Baniulis did not start but finished as the team's second-leading scorer, getting 15 points on five 3-pointers.
Baniulis has seen this kind of lineup before. Two years ago in SEC play, the 6-foot-7 Lithuanian was the power forward in a starting group that had the 6-7 Archie at center and three guards.
It gave the team a bit of a lift then, and Baniulis hopes the results this season will be similar.
"Look what happened tonight: Lakeem started at the 4," Baniulis said. "He's 6-5 and he's as mobile as anyone in the SEC and coach Horn started him at the 4. So I guess we are going to go that direction."
Longwood (3-12) became a Division I program only recently, and its height and talent level reflect that. So it might not be the best test for how USC's new lineup works in SEC play.
But Horn was happy with the spark the lineup provided. He tried other variations, with freshman Stephen Spinella at the third guard and Johndre Jefferson the center.
The constant remained point guard Devan Downey. The star senior finished with a game-high 18 points, all but one of those in the first half.
Longwood outrebounded USC, 40-37, but the Gamecocks forced 22 turnovers, blocked six shots and shot 50 percent from the floor.
"People are really not used to four guards playing in the game, so it'll give them something different to look at," Galloway said. "It'll change what they're doing, and we're really not changing what we're doing."
After losing two in a row and four of their past six, the Gamecocks were happy to get a win entering league play.
"Our guys are working hard," Horn said. "We're almost at a point where we have to refocus a little bit on exactly what we need to do to be successful. I don't know that we're going to come in and overwhelm anybody, necessarily. That being said, I think we can be really good and we can win league games on the road and especially at home."
Longwood 24 34 - 58 South Carolina 47 41 - 88
3-Pointer: Longwood 5-22, (Mitchell 1-1, Gee II 1-3, Smith 1-4, Swecker 1-4, Washington 1-6, Persaud 0-1, van der Kooij 0-1, Dawson 0-2), USC 9-23 (Baniulis 5-8, Raley-Ross 2-6, Galloway 1-4, Downey 1-4, Spinella 0-1). Turnovers: Longwood 22, USC 12. Steals: Longwood 9, USC 11. Technical Fouls: Carter. A-8,652. Officials-Ted Valentine, Antinio Petty, Karl Hess.