Darrin Horn’s Gamecocks off to Undefeated Start

Tim PollockSenior Writer INovember 22, 2008

After Saturday’s easy, 75-53 win over USC-Upstate, the South Carolina Gamecocks are now 3-0—and face a very light schedule over the next month.

South Carolina also defeated Winthrop University and Jacksonville State earlier this season.  The margin of victory over the first three games for USC is 19.3 points. 

The Gamecocks’ schedule has received much criticism, in large part because Carolina might not face a ranked team until January.

Then again, tell that to Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama, who have been upset by the likes of VMI, Loyola of Chicago and Mercer, respectively.

Regardless, the Darrin Horn era has officially begun.

This year’s team—made up of essentially the exact same players as last year—has a completely different look. 

The Gamecocks look to push it, press, and shoot the three ball—not exactly staples of Dave Odom’s teams.  Because of the up tempo style, Horn has also been subbing liberally, giving valuable minutes to every player dressed out.  

Devan Downey has picked up where he left off last year, scoring, dishing, collecting steals, and generally wreaking havoc on the court.  Coach Horn has stressed more discipline from Downey on the defensive end, and it shows.

Joining Downey in the backcourt are Zam Frederick, Branden Conrad, and Evka Baniulis.

Frederick continues to be a streaky scorer but is playing much more within himself than in the past while Conrad is seeing significant minutes for the first time in his career as a Gamecock.  Conrad has been steady to this point, knocking down open jumpers, making the correct passes, and playing tough defense. 

Baniulis, meanwhile, is trying to find his niche in an offense that only suits half of his strengths.  Baniulis loves to put up the threes, but getting from one end of the floor to the other—quickly—can be a struggle for the big wingman.   

Brandis Raley-Ross was the starting two-guard but will be gone for another three weeks after suffering a knee injury in the opening game.

Up front, both Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes are looking great. 

Archie’s length has given teams fits, and some of his dunks have been Sports Center material for sure.  Archie has also develop a legitimate three-point shot and looks to knock it down in transition or in the half court set.  His presence on the press will be huge for the Cocks this year. 

Holmes does the dirty work down low but can also step out and shoot a nice 15-17 foot jumper.  Like Archie, he is posting double-doubles and looks to be working very hard.

Spelling both Archie and Holmes is Austin Steed, who has been a pleasant surprise so far for Carolina.  Steed has the perfect sixth man persona:  the hustle, work ethic, and penchant to find the loose ball.  Steed has also shown himself to be a decent scoring threat. 

All that said, the most important thing Darrin Horn has done is infuse the program with enthusiasm.  If he can get his team to 11-0 before the Clemson game, that will tell a lot about his coaching, since this team has been known for its roller-coaster performances and occasional lapses against inferior teams. 

And come SEC time, watch out.  With no clear leader of the conference, it should be wide open, and Carolina will surely sneak up on a few teams. 

If you see USC on your team’s schedule, put it on your calendar and watch these kids play.  They are sure to get after it and leave you entertained.