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November 22, 2008Mike Holmes and Evka Baniulis reserved their seats on the South Carolina rollercoaster.
On Saturday, USC won 75-53 over USC Upstate and Holmes and Baniulis were big parts of it. Holmes grabbed another 12 rebounds (seven offensive) and Baniulis scored a season-high 13 points.
The rest of it ... well, let's just say it won't be making a lot of highlight reels.
Holmes continuously muscled inside and past Upstate's 7-foot-3 center, Nick Schneiders, but couldn't quite find the range on his shot. The sophomore was a grimacing 2-of-15 from the field and Hack-a-Shaqued two free throws, finishing with four points.
Baniulis finished the first half with 13 points on 5-of-6 shooting. He finished the game with 13 points on 5-of-8 shooting.
It wasn't just them. The Gamecocks as a team suffered through a second-half malaise that saw five field goals hit in the last 11 minutes. And with a 22-point win and a 3-0 start, nobody was too upset.
"Glad to get another win," coach Darrin Horn said. "I think it's the best we've done for 40 minutes in attempting to share the basketball."
Holmes also flashed some more of his infamous temper early in the game. Branden Conrad drilled a 15-footer from the right wing and while turning around to screen Holmes off the rebound, Upstate's Carter Cook gave Holmes a little shove. The ball nestled through the hoop as Cook turned back around, only to be greeted with Holmes' elbow under his chin.
Cook shoved Holmes again and the referees were quickly on it, issuing each player a foul.
Holmes played 33 minutes and again showed off his willingness to hit the floor with abandon, but just couldn't quite pry the lid off the basket.
"Mike also missed a few that he usually makes," Horn said, "but on a night that he's 2-for-15, he still grabs 12 boards, seven of them offensive."
MISSED OPPORTUNITIES: As part of its freezing shooting in the second half, USC missed a couple of ESPN-worthy dunks.
The first was with 15 minutes to play, when Zam Fredrick missed a jumper and Dominique Archie went up for the rebound. He got the ball and kept rising, powering up for a one-handed dunk.
The ball drew back iron and bounced well away.
The second time really hurt, after Devan Downey got a rebound and shot downcourt. He saw Archie on the baseline and flipped an alley-oop pass, to which Archie soared from the block, caught with one hand and in one motion, threw down.
Again, the ball slammed into the inside rim and off target, leaving Archie to stare at it with demonic intent. That possession turned into Conrad rebounding and missing a 3-pointer, Holmes missing a putback of the 3, Holmes getting fouled and clanking both free throws and Downey rebounding but losing the ball between his legs.
Overall, a film segment to watch and quickly burn.
IMPROVEMENT: Horn is only two wins away from matching Johnnie McMillan for the best start for a new coach in school history. McMillan went 5-0 in 1944.
Horn matched Branch Bocock (1925) and Ted Petoskey (1936) with his 3-0 start.
CALL THE COPS: For the third straight game, all of USC's starters got at least one steal. USC only did that four times all of last year.
Against Upstate, Downey led the way with four while Fredrick had three. The Gamecocks were second in the SEC in steals checking into the game.
NOT SERIOUS: Center Mitchell Carter took a shot above the right eye in the first half and had to go the locker room, eventually returning in a different jersey (No. 51) because of blood on his other one. He sported a Band-Aid during the second half and only played one minute.
Downey also played with his left pinky taped to his left ring finger. He suffered the injury against Winthrop last week and re-tweaked it against Upstate.
"I kind of jammed it again in the second half," Downey said. "It'll be OK. It ain't nothing but a pinky. Ain't no little pinky going to keep me from playing. I'll be all right."