South Carolina 79, S.C. State 51
COLUMBIA -- South Carolina coach Darrin Horn knew this was his team's last chance to work on things before the start of Southeastern Conference play on Saturday with a date at No. 2 Kentucky. He was pleased with the Gamecocks' balanced attack and the way they distributed the ball in a 79-51 victory over South Carolina State Tuesday night.
Malik Cooke and Damontre Harris each scored 11 points to lead the way as all 12 South Carolina players scored. It was the Gamecocks' fourth straight victory and sixth in the past seven games. The only setback during that time was an eight-point loss at home to then-No. 2 Ohio State.
"It was a positive to see our guys come out the way they did, especially offensively," Horn said. "We shared the basketball, and obviously we shot the ball well from the perimeter. I think a large part of that is we were focused on taking the right kind of shots.
"Any time you get everybody some minutes heading into league play, and everybody gets in the scoring column, is a positive. Fourth game in a row our guys have come out with the focus we are going to need."
Former Berkeley High star Bruce Ellington, former Fort Dorchester High standout RJ Slawson and Damien Leonard added nine points apiece as the Gamecocks (8-6) improved to 18-0 all-time against the Bulldogs (4-10) of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
Ellington was playing a day after serving as a kick returner and wide receiver in the Gamecocks' 30-13 victory over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl. The sophomore guard missed Saturday's win over South Carolina Upstate but was coming off a 17-point effort in his last outing, a 57-45 win over Wofford on Dec. 28.
He played a season-low 13 minutes Tuesday but was 3 for 3 on 3-pointers. Ellington has made 8 of 9 3-pointers in the last two games he's played.
"Sometimes I don't want to shoot after practice, but our trainer does a good job of getting me in there and getting shots up," Ellington said. "He gets me in there every day to work on my shot, and it's getting better."
The balanced attack was not lost on the Gamecocks players.
"It's a good confidence builder," Slawson said. "That's good leading into SEC play with momentum and confidence."
The Gamecocks never trailed after Eric Smith made the first of South Carolina's seven 3-pointers in the first half to make it 5-2 in the early going. They finished 7 of 13 from beyond the arc and shot 58.6 percent (17 of 29) overall in building a 45-23 halftime advantage. The lead reached as many as 30 points in the second half.
"We get better every day," Harris said. "Coach (Horn) stresses that all the time, to get better and play hard and do the things that you can do. Our confidence level is up."
Luka Radovic led the way for S.C. State with 15 points. The Bulldogs have lost eight in a row, the past seven on the road.
3-Point Field Goals -- SCST 3-15 (Martin 2-6, Joint 1-5, Toombs 0-1, Sanders 0-1, Riley 0-2); USC 11-23 (Ellington 3-3, Leonard 3-6, Smith 2-3, Slawson 2-4, Cooke 1-1, Richardson 0-2, Phillips 0-2, Williams 0-2). Steals -- SCST 5 (Sanders 3); USC 11 (Slawson 3). Blocks -- SCST 5 (Joint 3); USC 6 (Jackson 2, Gill 2). Turnovers -- SCST 17 (Riley 4); USC 13 (Harris 3). Technicals -- SCST 1 (Radovic); USC 1 (Harris). A--6,557.