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Gamecocks come to life late to defeat Spiders

University of South Carolina's Ramon Galloway dribbles down court as the Gamecocks take on Richmond at the Colonial Life Arena.
University of South Carolina's Ramon Galloway dribbles down court as the Gamecocks take on Richmond at the Colonial Life Arena.

Absent two key players, the USC men's basketball team might lack the manpower to beat a major-conference team.

But thanks to continued grit, and well-timed energy, the Gamecocks still have enough to avoid an upset to a smaller school -- even ones that have made hay by beating teams from BCS conferences.

Richmond entered the Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday having won its past three games against such teams, dating to last season.

It left with that streak snapped, the victim of an explosive second half by USC, which pulled away for a 76-58 win.

"I'm just so proud of those guys," USC guard Devan Downey said. "There's a whole lot of talk about, we can't get it done and things like that. So this game right here was a really good game for us."

Downey scored eight of his game-high 18 points during USC's late 15-0 run to break open a tie game.

In the first 20 minutes, USC looked flat after a 10-day break. A sparse crowd didn't help. The Gamecocks (7-2) trailed by eight at the half.

But the team's energy returned in the second half as hustle and defense powered a 19-4 run after halftime.

USC outscored Richmond 52-26 in the second half.

"We had a good mood in the locker room at halftime," Gamecock coach Darrin Horn said. "It was just we need to keep doing what we need to do and eliminate some of their hustle plays and make sure we're winning all the other ones."

This was USC's third full game without injured forwards Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes, who will not return for at least several weeks away.

In a loss at Clemson, the Gamecocks wore down at the end, especially in the paint.

But in 18-point home wins against Richmond and Western Kentucky, each a respected mid-major, the Gamecocks have more than held their own.

"You go down our stat sheet and look at how the game went, every guy did what they could do tonight," Horn said. "We do that, we think even with two guys out we've got a chance to play with anybody."

Horn cited loose balls, defense and offensive rebounds -hustle plays - as reasons for Wednesday's victory. Then he added one more.

"We made shots in the second half," he said.

USC missed all eight of its 3-point tries in the first half.

Sam Muldrow kept the Gamecocks close, converting two three-point plays. Fellow big man Johndre Jefferson chipped in four points and four offensive rebounds.

But it took until the second half for others to step up their play. Freshman guard Ramon Galloway had a 3 and a breakaway dunk that brought the crowd to its feet early in the half.

The baskets allowed USC to set up its press, which forced a number of turnovers.

When Richmond rallied to tie the score, Galloway hit a runner to start the decisive run. Then Downey hit a couple 3s. Before Richmond had a chance to collect itself, the game was over.