Dominique Archie sat on the bench, watching intently and clapping, just as he had before his injury. This time seemed different.
The USC senior forward never played Monday's 81-57 victory against Furman, but the news about him overshadowed the day.
Archie will have season-ending surgery on his right knee, it was announced Monday. It was a big blow to a team that has faltered without him after starting the season with high hopes.
The Gamecocks were 4-0 before Archie got hurt. They are now 4-3 without him.
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"Dominique made us special, and I think Dominique gave us the opportunity to be special team because he's a special player and brought us so many special qualities," coach Darrin Horn said after the game.
Horn went on to say that he still thinks USC has a chance to be "really good." But he admitted the margin for error without Archie, a four-year starter, has diminished.
Archie injured his knee on Nov. 22, coming down hard after an open-court dunk against Miami. He had seven points in that game - which his team went on to lose - and was the Gamecocks' leading scorer before that.
The Gamecocks' NCAA tournament chances would have been bolstered if Archie could have returned. Instead, USC's hopes are pinned on the return of Mike Holmes (eye injury) and a successful SEC season.
Initially, Archie was announced as being out indefinitely with a severe knee sprain. But after huddling with the doctors, it was decided that the knee would not fully heal without surgery.
"I think in some ways it'll help us adjust maybe a little bit better, knowing for sure that is the case and understanding what we have to do," Horn said.
Senior guard Devan Downey called Monday's news "sad but motivating."
"One of my best friends in my life, his opportunity has been taken away from him," Downey said. "Dominique, if you really knew him, he's a great guy. Tries to do everything the right way. So I'm gonna go out every day and try to play hard for him. Because I know, not think I know, he'd do the same for me."
Now the question turns to whether Archie's career at USC is over. He would like to apply for a medical redshirt, but he already used a redshirt his first year.
Generally, the NCAA only grants requests to athletes that have been forced out for at least two different seasons for reasons outside their control.
Horn emphasized that the decision will be left up to Archie.
"I think it's really too early to say that. Even if that's the first inclination for him or anybody else," Horn said. "There's going to be some thought process that goes in it."
Downey is the star of the team, but Archie, a versatile wing and post talent, may have been as valuable. Downey, however, remained hopeful.
"We've just got to adjust," Downey said. "Keep doing what we do. Hopefully get Mike back in these next couple weeks, and we're still a good basketball club. If we can defend, we can beat anybody."