Malik Cooke’s recent scoring spree might pose a lineup problem for Gamecocks head coach Darrin Horn.
When forward Lakeem Jackson returns from resting his sore foot for the Feb. 26 game at Georgia, Cooke – who got a career-high 22 points versus Tennessee and has scored in double figures in four of the last five games -- could return to the bench.
Or Horn could try something different.
Perhaps he could start Cooke at shooting guard.
The junior forward seemed comfortable working from the perimeter on Wednesday, including scoring career-high tying three 3-point shots.
Neither Ramon Galloway nor Brian Richardson has nailed down the job in recent weeks. Adding Cooke at that spot would give USC more rebounding muscle.
If Horn wants to keep one of his traditional shooting guards, then he could consider having Jackson, who is not as potent a scorer as Cooke, come off the bench.
Horn has said Jackson is best perimeter stopper. When Jackson was healthy, opponents made 5.8 3-pointers a game in nonconference play and the first three SEC games. But in the six SEC games that Jackson played hurt, the average remained the same.
Is what the team loses defensively without Jackson as big as what he could gain offensively with Cooke? That will be tested in the next couple of games before Jackson returns.
Rough starts: The Gamecocks’ woes have come in the first half during the current four-game losing streak. USC is shooting 29.6 percent in the first 20 minutes versus 45.6 percent by opponents during the stretch. While South Carolina has shot better in the second half – 44.5 percent, so have its foes – 53.6 percent.
Bombs away: Galloway is hurting from long range. The sophomore is shooting 22 percent from 3-points in SEC play – down from 40.7 percent in nonconference games. He made one of his last 13 attempts after missing all five tries on Wednesday.
At the line: A couple of Gamecocks have shown conference play does not bother them at the free-throw line. Galloway has made 10 of his last 11 free throws and is averaging 77.4 percent in SEC games after shooting 55.2 percent in nonconference contests. Cooke’s average went down slightly after going 5-of-6 on Wednesday. He’s shooting 85.3 percent in league action after hitting 64.5 percent during the nonconference schedule.
Much more slaw: Freshman forward R.J. Slawson had another impressive showing with five points – including a 3-pointer – and a career-high eight rebounds before fouling out against Tennessee. He was rewarded for his good effort against Georgia with a career-high 26 minutes of playing time on Wednesday, nearly double his previous high.