Getting to coach his first South Carolina team made up almost entirely of players he recruited, Darrin Horn’s preaching of defense and rebounding seems to be working.
USC’s opponents are scoring three fewer points per game over last season (71 versus 68) and are shooting four percentage points less from the field (45 percent versus 41 percent).
Meanwhile, the Gamecocks are no longer getting outrebounded like a year ago. They are averaging five more boards a game.
“A lot (of it is) because of personnel, we’re more athletic than we were, and some of it is another year under our belt for a couple of our guys,” Horn said. “The big thing is sustaining it. We’ve had games where overall our numbers look good OK, but there are stretches where (the team struggled),” including late in the Florida win and at the beginning of the second half in the victory over Arkansas.
In general, the sore spot has been USC’s shooting – especially since SEC play began.
The Gamecocks are making fewer of the baskets through five league games (38.6 percent) than last season’s league average (40.8 percent) and this year’s nonconference slate (43.1 percent).
South Carolina has managed to keep scoring throughout this season about the same from a year ago, but, in tougher SEC play, the Gamecocks are netting five fewer points a game compared to nonconference contests – 68 points versus 73 points.
“I don’t think that being better defensively means guys aren’t scoring as well,” Horn said.
On the plus side, USC’s rebounding has not wavered since the league season began, and, in a small surprise for a young team, the Gamecocks are taking care of the ball by averaging three fewer turnovers than in nonconference games.
Several Gamecocks are posting better stats in SEC play, led by Sam Muldrow.
The senior forward is averaging nearly a double-double in league play with 14.6 points and 9.8 rebounds. He averaged 9.4 points and 6.4 rebounds during the nonconference season. And Muldrow has more than doubled his blocked shots average in SEC action.
Point guard Bruce Ellington is averaging a point better a game, scoring 15.2 points in his first SEC campaign. And super-sub Ramon Galloway, who will get his first start of the season on Saturday, has added to his point, rebounding and assist averages in league play versus nonconference games.
Galloway credited his teammates: “I get easy and open shots from Bruce, and Sam grabs rebounds and kicks it out.”
Darrin Horn previews USC-Auburn
Ramon Galloway previews USC-Auburn