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Big first half gives USC an easy win

Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) participates in rookie mini-camp at Methodist Training Center.
Houston Texans linebacker Jadeveon Clowney (90) participates in rookie mini-camp at Methodist Training Center. USA TODAY Sports

It was another should-beat-big opponent during an opening stretch in which there will be many. And at times, it was a sloppy affair.

Still, it was another victory for the South Carolina men’s basketball team on Saturday, 75-53 against USC-Upstate.

“That’s how it’s supposed to be,” Gamecock guard Zam Fredrick said. “There’s a lot of teams out there in our league who’ve got a loss already because they didn’t take care of business and do what they were supposed to do.”

Fredrick had a season-high 23 points in the Gamecocks’ third consecutive rout. The margin of victory has been 19.3 points.

In their third game last year, the Gamecocks lost convincingly at home to Southern Cal, after routing two weaker opponents.

This year, the first game in which they will not be the favorite does not arrive until Dec. 30, when Clemson visits.

Still, Fredrick and teammate Devan Downey went out of their way to point out plenty of other SEC teams — Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama — have been upset by the likes of VMI, Loyola of Chicago and Mercer.

“They have opportunities to beat us if we don’t play the way we’re supposed to,” Fredrick said. “No matter who the team is, you’ve still got to take care of business, because there’s teams out there losing to teams who you feel might be weaker than them. But they’re not taking care of business, and we are.”

And while South Carolina has cruised through its first three games, USC-Upstate — in its second year as a Division I program — is playing a brutal nonconference schedule that started with visits to Georgia and Notre Dame.

In their first two games, the Spartans played it close in the first half before their opponent pulled away after halftime. On Saturday, it was the reverse.

Much of that had to do with the Gamecocks, who played sloppy and missed a lot of shots. After shooting 54 percent in the first half, the Gamecocks dropped to 30 percent.

But the lowest the lead got was 14. The Gamecocks pretty much won the game in the first half by jumping out to a 35-12 advantage and leading by as many as 25.

Downey had his typical all-around game, notching six assists and four steals to go with 16 points.

Forward Mike Holmes had seven offensive rebounds, and has 18 this season. He is averaging 10.6 rebounds per game.

It was different on the offensive end, as Holmes went 2-for-15 from the field, in large part because he was going against the Spartans’ 7-foor-3 center Nick Schneiders.

“It’s not gonna be pretty basketball all the time, but you’ve gotta take the good with the bad, with the style of play that we have,” Fredrick said.

USC-Upstate coach Eddie Payne had words of caution for the Gamecocks.

“South Carolina has some depth issues that they’ll have to manage,” Payne said. “Their guards are good enough that I think they will keep them involved in some games when they get into higher-level teams. ...

“Their low-post thing is going to be a little bit of a problem as they get into SEC play.”

Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.

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