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December 1, 2008Gamecock Central beat writer David Cloninger is on the way to New Jersey to cover tonight's USC-Princeton basketball game. Follow along by clicking here.
SOUTH CAROLINA (4-1) at PRINCETON (2-2)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Jadwin Gym, Princeton, N.J.
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Devan Downey 5-9 Jr. (19.2 ppg, 3.2 rpg); G Zam Fredrick 6-0 Sr. (15.6 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Branden Conrad 6-2 Sr. (6.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg); F Dominique Archie 6-7 Jr. (10.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg); F/C Mike Holmes 6-7 So. (12.4 ppg, 10.6 rpg)
Princeton's probable starters: G Doug Davis 5-11 Fr. (17.3 ppg, 4.0 rpg); G Jason Briggs 6-2 Sr. (2.8 ppg, 2.5 rpg); G/F Patrick Saunders 6-7 Fr. (2.3 ppg, 3.8 rpg); C Pawel Buczak 6-10 Jr. (5.8 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F Kareem Maddox 6-8 So. (7.8 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Notes: The Gamecocks play their second road game in five days before returning for a five-game homestand throughout the rest of the month. ... Princeton holds a 3-2 lead in the series but USC won the last game 54-48 two seasons ago. ... The Tigers will host an SEC team for just the second time in school history. The first was in 1985, when Vanderbilt beat Princeton 49-44. ... The Tigers are 4-13 against the SEC all-time, but that is counted against schools which were in the SEC at the time of the game. Only one win over USC was during the Gamecocks' tenure in the league (1992). ... USC is the first major-conference team to come to Princeton since Kansas visited in 2001.
Next game: USC hosts Furman at 6 p.m. on Friday.
Darrin Horn was disappointed with the loss, moreso after he reviewed it.
The Gamecocks didn't look nearly as good against College of Charleston the second time around, and when the final score didn't change (as if it could), Horn put it bluntly.
"After going back and reviewing the film ... we did not defend and rebound on the level that you have to for us to be our best and to have the opportunity to win a close game on the road in a tough environment against a good basketball team," Horn said on Monday, three days after USC's first loss of the season. "We probably never would have scheduled these games back to back, had we had a choice."
USC (4-1) lost its perfect start during an 82-80 overtime defeat to College of Charleston on Nov. 28, its first road game of the year. Now the Gamecocks must regroup quickly, fix what's wrong and add a few new wrinkles to prepare for the next opponent -- at Princeton (2-2), tonight.
It's an unusual occurrence for a major conference team to visit Princeton -- USC is the first to do it in seven years. But Horn looked past the quirkiness of it because of the obvious challenge it presents.
The Tigers are one of those historical giant-killers that play fundamental basketball. If you beat them, that's a very nice mark on your ledger.
If you beat them.
"I think as a team, what we've got to do is learn from what happened Friday night," Horn said. "You don't want to do that with losses but sometimes that's what happens."
Against Charleston, the Gamecocks coughed up a season-high 19 turnovers, regressed from their early-season strong showing on the offensive glass and shot 10 less free throws. Still, USC hit some big baskets and only lost by two points, in overtime, when a few too many impossible Cougar shots became possible.
"We stuck around and made some plays and gave ourselves a chance, to be in the game and have a chance to win, but when you look at the whole of it, we just didn't play at a level that we need to," Horn said. "It's going to be harder on the road."
And harder against Princeton, a team that plays slowdown basketball, burning the clock until a backdoor lane opens up. The Gamecocks will add a couple of tweaks into the defensive gameplan to try and stop it but will also keep up their usual approach.
"We're going to do what we do," Horn said. "Are some things much more important because of how they play? Sure."
It should help that Princeton doesn't appear to be the squad that routinely boasted a top-flight defense and maddeningly patient offense for 29 years under former coach Pete Carril. A year removed from a 6-23 season, the Tigers lost their first two games of the season, each at home, to Central Michigan and Maine.
They rebounded to beat Army and Fordham on the road and want to keep the streak going. If the Gamecocks show up and are as frigid handling the ball as they were against Charleston, it could be another sour night.
"But how many times did we drop passes or try to throw passes that just weren't, I mean, absolutely were not there?," Horn questioned about the Charleston game. "There were just too many turnovers like that where we dropped the basketball or got it slapped away or tried to make passes that just weren't there and on a couple of cases, had a couple of guys trying to do things that they don't need to be trying to do."
"You got to take care of the ball on the road," point guard Devan Downey said after the loss.
MULDROW: Horn somewhat clarified the status of sophomore forward Sam Muldrow, who has yet to play this year while serving an academic suspension. Horn said at the season's beginning that Muldrow would play when his academics were resolved and Monday was the first time he put a sort-of time frame on it.
"We told you all when we knew something on Sam we would let you know," Horn said. "At this point in time it does not look like he's going to be available to us until at least the end of the semester. And at what point after that, I don't know the answer to that either. Hopefully soon thereafter that, but we don't know."
It seems likely that Muldrow will miss Friday's game hosting Furman, the last contest before the exam break. Whether he will be eligible for the next game (Dec. 16 hosting N.C. Central) will be clarified later.
The semester ends on Dec. 15.
YOU DONE GOOD: Horn also congratulated his alma mater and former coaching stop, Western Kentucky, for beating then-No. 3 Louisville 68-54 two days ago.
"Happy for those kids, obviously," he said. "Also a testament to what happens when a group of young people believe they belong in that situation and can do it. Ultimately ... that confidence is what we're trying to do here. And we will. We'll get to that point."
The game was not scheduled when Horn was still coaching. Horn thought he knew why.
"Conveniently after we graduated six seniors," he quipped.
Gamecock Central beat writer David Cloninger is on the way to New Jersey to cover tonight's USC-Princeton basketball game. Follow along by clicking here.