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Horn, USC take another crack at the ACC

University of South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn gives instruction from the sideline as the Gamecocks take on Richmond at the Colonial Life Arena.
University of South Carolina head coach Darrin Horn gives instruction from the sideline as the Gamecocks take on Richmond at the Colonial Life Arena.

Neither coach remembers who made the first phone call. It might have been someone from the SEC, or a representative from the ACC, or even ESPN.

South Carolina's Darrin Horn and Boston College's Al Skinner do know that when the opportunity arose for their programs to face off, they jumped.

"It's good for our RPI. It's a win-win for everyone involved," Skinner said. "Two good conferences, two pretty good basketball teams. It's not a game that's going to hurt you, regardless of what happens."

The result was a two-year, home-and-home series, starting tonight at Boston College. The only other meeting between the was in 1971, when USC was in the ACC and the Eagles were an independent.

This will be USC's third game against an ACC opponent this season. The Gamecocks lost to Clemson, and to Miami in the Charleston Classic. They last beat an ACC team when they knocked off Florida State in overtime in the 2006 NIT.

The ACC has a 6-3 advantage this season against the SEC. The ACC won last year's series 8-5.

Horn said he didn't set out explicitly to schedule ACC teams. The Miami game was played in a tournament, so it wasn't a scheduled meeting. USC plays Clemson every season.

The Boston College game was set up because both schools were looking for a good nonconference game - especially South Carolina, which wanted to upgrade its schedule. The ACC and SEC offices, as well as ESPN, helped put the teams in touch.

The Eagles offer USC a challenge. They are not at Duke's or North Carolina's level, but Skinner's program is a regular in the NCAA tournament, having earned berths in eight of the past nine seasons.

The Eagles are 8-4 this season, including home losses to Harvard and Rhode Island and a victory at Michigan.

"BC's a program that is in the kind of position that we'd like to be in," Horn said. "They've been to multiple (NCAA) tournaments ... They're committed to a style of play and a certain kind of player, and they've done it in an outstanding league."

Boston College joined the ACC in 2005, and the Eagles have maintained the bruising style of play they employed in the Big East.

That is something Horn admires as he continues to establish his system in his second season at USC.

"They're a team that's committed to their style of play, and they're really good at it," Horn said. "Whether that fits with what the rest of the league is doing or not, I think that's the way they have success. Having something you believe in and being committed to it and recruiting to it. I think they've done as good a job as, really, anybody, relative to all things in college basketball, in doing that."

Skinner has done his research on the Gamecocks, too. He knows they are a good team expected to contend for an NCAA bid.

Of course, a lot changed when USC lost Dominique Archie to a season-ending injury, and a second starter, Mike Holmes, remains out. But to Skinner, it's still an SEC-quality team.

"The most important thing is you're playing a quality program that's had some success, and they play in a great league," Skinner said. "And so, because of the level of competition, they know what it is to play at the highest level. So we've gotta make sure to bring our game up to that level in order to compete."

USC VS. THE ACC

The Gamecocks are 1-7 against the league the past five seasons:

2009-10

Miami 85, USC 70; Clemson 72, USC 61

2008-09

Clemson 98, USC 87

2007-08

N.C. State 63, USC 61; Clemson 85, USC 74

2006-07

Clemson 74, USC 53

2005-06

Clemson 82, USC 63; USC 69, Florida St. 68, OT*

* - NIT

ACC VS. SEC

The ACC has won six of nine games against the SEC this season.

Nov. 22: Miami 85, South Carolina 70

USC's Dominique Archie injured early in final of Charleston Classic.

Nov. 22: N.C. State 60, Auburn 58

Wolfpack won in semifinal of Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla.

Nov. 24: Florida 68, Florida State 52

Home-standing Gators led by 20 at halftime and cruised.

Nov. 27: Florida State 60, Alabama 51

Seminoles won in semifinal of Old Spice Classic in Orlando, Fla.

Dec. 5: Kentucky 68, North Carolina 66

Wildcats led most of the way in Lexington; Tar Heels made a 3 at the buzzer.

Dec. 6: Clemson 72, South Carolina 61

Tigers pulled away at home to beat rivals for sixth consecutive time.

Dec. 7: Auburn 68, Virginia 67

Auburn, playing at home, won on a tip-in with 1.4 seconds left.

Dec. 6: Virginia Tech 74, Georgia 62

In Blacksburg, Hokies easily dispatched the SEC East's worst team.

Dec. 17: Florida State 76, Auburn 72

Visiting Auburn rallied from a 14-point second-half deficit but fell short.

Gamecocks vs Eagles

When: 9 tonight

Where: Silvio O. Conte Forum, Boston

TV: ESPNU (TWC 158/DTV 601/DISH 402)

RADIO: WNKT-FM 107.5

RECORDS: USC 8-3, Boston College 8-4

COACHES: Darrin Horn (29-13 in second season at USC, 140-61 in seventh season overall). Al Skinner (240-153 in 13th season at BC, 378-279 in 22nd season overall).

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

South Carolina will need to record some steals and convert them in transition. Boston College employs a slower, bruising style, but it can score a lot of points, and has had success against ACC teams that play up-tempo (Duke, Clemson, Maryland). So it should come down to 3-point shooting and USC's defense. BC's bench about eight-deep, so that will be an advantage for USC if it can dictate tempo.

STARTING LINEUPS

Gamecocks
POS. HGT. NAME PPG
F 6-7 Austin Steed 3.4
F 6-5 Lakeem Jackson 6.4
C 6-9 Sam Muldrow 9.5
G 6-2 Brandis Raley-Ross 11.2
G 5-9 Devan Downey 17.5
EAGLES
POS. HGT. NAME, Yr. PPG
F 6-6 Corey Raji 15.7
F 6-8 Joe Trapani 15.3
G 6-3 Reggie Jackson 13.8
G 6-5 Rakim Sanders 8.5
G 6-1 Biko Paris 6.8

BOTTOM LINE

Which Boston team will show up? The one that won at Michigan, or the one that lost at home to Harvard and Rhode Island? If it's the latter, undermanned South Carolina has a chance.

- Seth Emerson

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