THE HIGHS AND
lows from South Carolina’s season that ended Thursday:
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Where USC improved: Rebounds and free throws.
Coach Darrin Horn preached rebounding, and the team answered this season with 36.3 rebounds per game, the best in 14 years in the SEC. The Gamecocks led the conference with 15 offensive rebounds per game — key for a team that shot poorly.
From the line, USC finished the year shooting above 70 percent in SEC play for the first time in nine seasons. Making free throws helped USC beat Florida, LSU and Ole Miss and nearly come back against Georgia.
Where USC regressed: Shooting and scoring.
South Carolina’s shooting percentage ranked 319th among 336 Division I teams this season, while its 37.1 percent shooting in SEC play was lowest since the school joined the league 19 seasons ago. USC’s 64.1 points per game were the lowest in nine years.
“It’s hard to get that (confidence) back when you’re facing the competition that we’re facing night-in and night-out,” USC assistant coach Mike Boynton said. “It definitely snowballed.”
The high point: Winning at Florida.
The 72-69 victory provided a glimpse of USC’s future. South Carolina was the only SEC team to win in Gainesville this year by storming out to a 10-point halftime lead behind eight points each from freshmen Bruce Ellington and Damontre Harris.
Ellington’s scoring struggles would start soon after his 23-point performance. Harris played his best half while pushing around the Gators’ bigger and more experienced post players.
The turning point: Losing to Auburn at home.
South Carolina was 3-2 in the SEC and had a week to prepare for the Tigers, which had not won a conference game. Auburn pounded USC 79-63 as Tiger center Rob Chubb scored a career-high 18 points wearing sneakers borrowed from South Carolina after his were left behind. The Gamecocks went 2-9 after the loss.
The low points: Scoring nine points in the first half against Georgia/Losing by 31 points at Kentucky.
The Gamecocks almost came back on the Bulldogs at home, but South Carolina’s team SEC-low output in the first half was the beginning of its shooting drought. USC never shot above 40 percent in a game after the 60-56 loss.
A week later, South Carolina played listlessly in a 90-59 drubbing in Lexington, the most lopsided defeat of Horn’s tenure.
Moment to remember: Sam Muldrow’s triple-double against Vanderbilt.
By getting 16 points, 14 rebounds and a school-record 10 blocks in the SEC-opening win, the forward from Florence foreshadowed his good final season. He was named the Defensive Player of the Year and was the team’s leading scorer in SEC games.
Moment to forget: Last-minute 3-point misses at Mississippi State.
Ellington made a bad choice on the first try after refusing a screen and then Ramon Galloway passed to Ellington rather than take an open jumper on the second miss. Fans saw the 60-58 loss in Starkville as a sign the team had not grown enough during the season.