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Gamecocks set to make rare trip upstate

It was, to borrow a phrase from someone else in a similar situation, a "weak moment" for Darrin Horn.

Last summer, Horn was trying to finish off the schedule for his first season as USC's basketball coach, and Wofford agreed to visit Columbia that season - with one catch. The small private school wanted USC to return the trip a year later.

With his options exhausted, Horn agreed.

"It's great to go to a state school and all that," Horn said this week. "But in the big picture of things, this was a different approach because we were trying to finish (the schedule)."

As a result, USC makes a rare road trip to a non-BCS school today, where it will play Wofford in its 3,500-seat arena. The state's flagship school, with an undergrad enrollment of nearly 30,000, will be playing at a Spartanburg private school with 1,500 students.

"Any time you can bring an ACC or SEC team into your home court, it's different," said Wofford athletics director Richard Johnson, also the school's former basketball coach.

In fact, these kind of games are becoming more common - and this same matchup occurred eight seasons ago.

USC visited Wofford in 2001, coach Dave Odom's first season at USC. But Johnson originally scheduled the game with Eddie Fogler.

"I think I just caught Eddie in a weak moment," Johnson joked.

Fogler also played games at Furman and The Citadel, and USC baseball coach Ray Tanner regularly plays smaller schools, including Wofford and Furman, a point Johnson mentioned.

Both 2001 and this year are part of two-for-one deals, where the big school hosts the smaller school twice in between the return trip. In that setup, one game is a guarantee (the big school paying the smaller one a flat fee to visit), while in the other two, each school keeps their gate. And according to Johnson, Wofford will earn less revenue from hosting the game than if it took a guarantee to play at USC.

"But money is just one of the pieces of it," Johnson said. "The fact that we get to have South Carolina here and host them is well worth doing."

Wofford has plenty of experience this year playing bigger schools and has had some success.

The Terriers (5-6) won at Georgia, led most of the way at Pittsburgh before losing by three, lost by 12 at Michigan State and lost by 14 to Illinois in the Las Vegas Invitational.

But this will be the first big game Wofford has hosted this season. That still doesn't guarantee a pro-Terrier crowd: Johnson thinks that Wofford students being on break could lead to a 50-50 split in the crowd.

While playing on the road increases the risk of upset, there is also a benefit for the bigger schools. A few years ago the NCAA tweaked its formula for the RPI, giving more weight to road wins.

Wofford coach Mike Young was an assistant in 2001 when the Terriers hung tight with the Gamecocks before the visitors pulled away late. He admitted that his players, instead of being in awe of their opponents, aren't too caught up in the situation.

"I do remember (in 2001) walking out and thinking we were too fired up. Just go play," Young said. "South Carolina's good and they're exceptionally well-coached and they've got good players and they play real hard. (Devan) Downey's terrific. ... But you know, let's just go play and do the things that we value, and see where it takes us."

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