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Terriers dog USC in second half

SPARTANBURG - Perhaps this was inevitable. Perhaps the USC men's basketball team had been playing over its head the past two weeks, surviving without two key players.

Events caught up Saturday night with a 68-61 loss at Wofford.

How much the loss hurts at the end of the season may depend on when those injured players return.

But on this night, it hurt a lot.

"To make a long story short, we got outplayed tonight," USC guard Devan Downey said. "They beat us, from one through five, for every loose ball, every rebound. We got outplayed, they won the game."

Since Mike Holmes joined Dominique Archie on the injury list two weeks ago, South Carolina's players had pulled together, beating good mid-majors like Western Kentucky and Richmond, and staying close in a loss at Clemson.

But in the eyes of Gamecock coach Darrin Horn, the effort disappeared on Saturday.

Shots didn't fall, especially down the stretch. Key rebounds, and hustle points ended up in Wofford's hands.

"Name it, they outplayed us in every single area," Horn said. "On the glass, defensively, the way they moved the ball vs. how we moved the basketball. They outplayed us and they deserved to win the game."

It was the Terriers' (6-6) second victory against an SEC East team this year, the other being at Georgia.

Wofford coach Mike Young said the win, the first over USC in 70 years, was "without any question" one of the biggest wins in program history.

"We will not, in our record books, have an asterisk because Dominique and Holmes didn't play," Young said. "But that's a part of the game. Those two kids make them really, really good. But a good night for our team."

The game had a unique atmosphere, with an evenly divided, sold-out crowd in a smaller gym.

For a while, the Gamecock fans had plenty to cheer about. Their team was ahead at the half, 34-31, bolstered by five 3-pointers down the stretch, and eight blocked shots.

But Horn seemed to sense his team did not come out of the locker room with the needed spark. He called timeout 42 seconds into the second half, then a short time later mass-subbed his entire bench, which he had not done all year.

The Terriers were ahead one when Junior Salters missed an open-court dunk, but the rebound ended up with a teammate, and the Terriers hit a 3.

Still, it was anybody's game with two minutes left when Downey, given a chance to tie the score, went 1-for-2 at the line.

From there, it was a matter of missed shots by USC and made opportunities by Wofford, which did a job all night of being patient on offense and keeping the game at its preferred tempo.

Down two, Downey missed a 3 from the top of the key. Down four, Sam Muldrow missed another 3 from the same spot. Down six in the final minute, Downey missed another 3; teammate Evka Baniulis got the rebound, but his pass-out to Downey was too high.

The big play for Wofford came with 53 seconds left: With Muldrow defending up top, Terrier guard Jamar Diggs drove and dished to an open Noah Dalhman, who made the layup to extend the lead to four.

"I'm not gonna let this team fall apart," Downey said. "This is a good team. This is a good team. They beat us tonight. We've got a whole lot of basketball to play for us to fall apart. Hopefully this loss right here will make our team stronger."

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