The Gamecocks' second-consecutive win over Western Kentucky in the so-called "contract series" -- USC must play the Hilltoppers four times after hiring away Darrin Horn -- came with the tough mental game that the coach said he needs from the young team.
Still, the tough road victory left a couple of questions.
Horn knows he has a star in freshman guard Bruce Ellington, whose 20 points included two 3-pointers that sent the game into overtime and another trey that sealed the win in double overtime.
The former S.C. football player of the year finalist also added eight assists and eight rebounds, including a pair of defensive boards late in the second OT. "I think this guy next to me (Ellington) showed tonight why he is here," Horn said after the game. "You gotta get a special one, every time, whether it's a (former Western Kentucky star and current Houston Rocket) Courtney Lee or whoever. And it's not because of his athletic ability; it's because of his heart. He made big play after big play after big play. ... Most people think this guy is better in another sport, and I don't agree with that."
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USC guard Ramon Galloway seems to have recovered from that broken foot suffered just as practice started. the sophomore scored a team-high 22 points off the bench, including seven in the final overtime.
"Nobody at our level recruited Ramon Galloway, and he has been terrific," Horn said.
And forward Sam Muldrow, whom the coach said needed to step up, had a good game with 10 points, nine rebounds and four blocked shots. His bucket off a Galloway 3-point miss sent the game into a second overtime.
But the Gamecocks had a couple of issues besides Horn occasional confusion when looking at the E.A. Diddle Arena scoreboard. "I was used to looking at it a different way," said the man who spent 11 years playing and coaching in Bowling Green, Ky.
USC shot below 40 percent for the game, which works against mid-majors but will put the Gamecocks in a hole against conference competition. Consider: In the overtimes when the game was decided, USC shot 60 percent versus 39 percent for Western Kentucky.
And the Gamecocks got significant playing time -- and contributions -- from six players instead of the nine or 10 from previous games. With Horn's physically demanding pressure game, the bench will need to step up against the tougher opponents. Guard Stephen Spinella is scoreless after a team-high 15 points against Radford.
The Gamecocks have two games this week at Colonial Life Arena against Delaware State on Wednesday and Clemson on Sunday. The Tigers have won six straight in the hoops version of the Palmetto Bowl.
Horn also noted the SEC teams that failed to get past the Hilltoppers last season, though USC did.
"We have a young team, we have zero experience expect for Sam Muldrow, and to come into this environment, you know Vanderbilt couldn't do it, I don't think Mississippi State did, it's a big win for us because of how we won it."