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November 21, 2008USC UPSTATE SPARTANS (0-2)
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (2-0)
When: 1:04 p.m. Saturday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets:Available at the box office
USC Upstate's probable starters: G Josh Chavis 5-9 So. (5.0 ppg, 0.5 rpg); G Bobby Davis 6-3 Sr. (12.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg); C Nick Schneiders 7-3 Jr. (8.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg); F Gabor Boros 6-4 Sr. (3.0 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Mezie Uzochukwu 6-5 So. (7.5 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Devan Downey 5-9 Jr. (16.5 ppg, 3.0 rpg); G Zam Fredrick 6-0 Sr. (14.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg); G Branden Conrad 6-2 Sr. (5.0 ppg, 1.5 rpg); F Dominique Archie 6-7 Jr. (12.5 ppg, 9.5 rpg); F/C Mike Holmes 6-7 So. (15.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina continues its tour of in-state colleges, playing USC Upstate for the real first time (the Gamecocks won an exhibition game 89-76 over the Spartans in 2004). ... USC Upstate obviously has several South Carolina ties. Davis (Aiken), Pat Posey (Greenville), Zac Rich (Lexington), Chalmers Rogers (Fort Mill) and Cameron Rousey (Greenville) are native sons and assistant coach Steve Smith was raised in Varnville. Davis also played at Silver Bluff High School for coach John Combs, who later moved to Ridge View High where he coaches Mike Green, who has been offered by USC. Upstate coach Eddie Payne was a USC assistant from 1986-91 under George Felton... USC coach Darrin Horn became the first coach since World War II and just the ninth in history to win his first two games at the school. ... The Gamecocks will again play with just nine available players, Sam Muldrow out on academic watch and Brandis Raley-Ross recovering from a sprained knee.
Next game: USC hosts Gardner-Webb at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
After a whirlwind two games in three days, finding out what they could about themselves and their new coach's system, South Carolina's Gamecocks got a little bit of a break.
They didn't use it.
That'd be conceding that two wins in the first two games would somehow be enough for the whole season.
"I think he means he's looking for better than we looked against Winthrop," point guard Devan Downey said, referring to coach Darrin Horn's wish for more of the same against the next opponent. "Every game, we just want to get better. Getting better from one game to the next."
The Gamecocks (2-0) take on USC Upstate (0-2) at 1 p.m. Saturday at Colonial Life Arena, an intriguing matchup that may answer one question about USC's team this year.
How, with only one player 6-foot-10 or taller, can it defend height? Specifically, a guy like Upstate's 7-3 center, Nick Schneiders?
"A guy that's 7-(3)," Horn said. "Hard to teach that. Been at it 16 years and haven't been able to do that."
USC hasn't played an opponent with that kind of height in its first two games, so its defense hasn't gotten the chance to prove itself against it. But it's been doing fine in the other spots.
The Gamecocks are second in the SEC with a 12-steal-per-game average, Downey and Dominique Archie collecting six each to lead the team. Their 3.0 average is tied with Florida's Nick Calathes for the SEC lead, although Calathes has nine swipes.
Mike Holmes is also leading the SEC in offensive rebounds, averaging 5.5 per game, and USC is tops in turnover margin (+10). The team's rebounding totals, shot percentage and scoring defense is a middle-of-the-pack average, but a few outstanding totals are preventing it from being a real problem.
Upstate may be the first to seriously challenge it. The Spartans were hammered by Georgia and Notre Dame in their first two games, but showed surprising resiliency in the first halves of each. Schneiders' 8.5 points per game and the contributions of leading scorer Bobby Davis (he also leads the team in assists and steals) have kept Upstate in the hunt.
The Spartans would probably love nothing better than to knock off a big-name team, following their conference's recent heroics. The Atlantic Sun beat Kentucky, Southern Cal, Alabama, Georgia and Cincinnati and came within two points of eliminating Duke in the first round of the NCAA tournament last year.
Horn is hoping USC continues to improve, he estimating that the core of his system is in place but every X and O of it still miles away. He credited Upstate as a team of well-coached shooters and already said earlier this week that USC can't take its first two wins lightly.
"I think we're going to be looking for more of the same," Horn said. "We want to see great intensity and effort on the defensive end. Offensively, a little more progress and understanding the kind of shots we want and how we want to get them. Just continue to make progress in everything that we do."
It's another game against an in-state school, something USC will repeat six more times after Saturday. South Carolina colleges represent eight of the Gamecocks' 13 non-conference games.
Horn said it's something he'd like to do, building relationships with the other schools from the state, although he doubted it would be as extensive as this year's schedule.
"I think it's something that's important to do," Horn said. "We have an awful lot of them this year. Seems like almost all of them. Yeah, I think that's something that we'll look to do over a period of time. Will it be as many as this year? I can't say that, but it's something that we will do."
At least it offers the five South Carolina natives on USC's roster the chance to see some familiar faces on the opposite bench.
"I actually don't really know anybody on Upstate's roster," Downey admitted. "I knew a few guys on Winthrop's roster. More than likely, if we're playing an instate team, I'm going to know a few guys on the roster.
"But it really doesn't matter. It's all just a ballgame to me."
ATTENDANCE: Horn said he's been pleased with the attendance at Colonial Life Arena so far, an announced crowd of 11,439 seeing the season-opener hosting Jacksonville State and 7,231 watching the Winthrop game.
"The ones that are here have been into it and the atmosphere has been good," he said. "I think the most important thing is the student turnout, relative to the same time last year, has been really good and they've been into the game. We still think that's the most crucial component because they're so important to the energy and the atmosphere in the arena."
Horn was asked if the student section was any closer to being given an official name. A contest was begun before the season to see if anybody could suggest a winner.
A name has been chosen, but Horn declined to reveal it because it hasn't been finalized yet. He said there could be one on the way.