USC Men's Basketball

Can USC's defense offset offensive woes?

A young USC hoops team stands 3-1 after an defensive 16-point win over USC Upstate on Tuesday. 

Here are some thoughts and numbers as the Gamecocks visit head coach Darrin Horn's old school Western Kentucky for a game Saturday. (Also look for a story Saturday on the lessons Horn took away from his days as a Hilltopper player and coach.)

-- The Gamecocks held their third opponent to under 40 percent shooting, keeping the Spartans below 30 percent. Horn has preached defense and against smaller-conference foes the Gamecocks have been successful. Only No. 2 Michigan State shot well against the Gamecocks in USC's sole loss. 

-- With his team's improving defense, Horn said after the Upstate win that he was not concerned about the offense, which shot 36.5 percent while scoring 57 points against the Spartans. But USC must find a better scoring touch against teams the Gamecocks will have a tougher time defending, such as upcoming non-conference foes Clemson and No 3 Ohio State. USC's leaders in field-goal attempts -- guard Bruce Ellington and forward Malik Cooke -- are shooting less than 35 percent. 

-- Gamecock senior forward Sam Muldrow, whom Horn said needed to step up his game, scored two points and grabbed five rebounds in 21 minutes against USC Upstate. So far this season, the big man is the team's fourth-leading scorer and rebounder. Horn said this week that lineup changes might come for Saturday's game with Western Kentucky. With the Thanksgiving holiday, the coach has no press conferences scheduled before Saturday. But if he chooses to sub Muldrow, Horn could start senior Johndre Jefferson but his other options are freshmen -- R.J. Slawson and Damontre Harris. And if he goes with youth, the Gamecocks would count three first-year college players among his starters. 

-- USC forward Lakeem Jackson is improving at the line. The sophomore has converted seven straight free throws in the last two games. Jackson, who shot 27 percent from the line last season, is now hitting 70 percent in the latest campaign.  

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