USC continues to struggle with SEC play approaching
COLUMBIA South Carolina played with a lot of energy, but a tested and experienced Boston College team exposed the Gamecocks' weaknesses to spoil their New Year's Day celebration with an 85-70 rout.
The loss was the third in the past four games for USC. It comes a week before SEC play begins.
The Eagles (11-3) used their success from beyond the 3-point arc to open lanes to drive past the Gamecocks' interior players and increase their lead from two to 13 points in the final seven minutes of the first half.
Then USC (8-4) went cold to open the second half. With eight minutes remaining, the Gamecocks were shooting 32 percent in the half, while the Eagles had made 67 percent of their baskets to open a 29-point lead.
Boston College grabbed a season-high 44 rebounds; USC nabbed 30, its second-lowest total of the season. The Gamecocks were averaging 10 more rebounds per game than the Eagles heading into Saturday's contest.
Boston College also tied its season mark for 3-pointers made 13 while shooting 40.6 percent from long range. USC shot 26.9 percent on 3-pointers, a lower percentage than its opponent for the third consecutive game.
USC coach Darrin Horn said the Gamecocks did well at first defending the dribble to prevent the 3-pointer, but Boston College worked harder to get their shots and wore down the Gamecocks.
"The extra pass really killed us," said USC forward Lakeem Jackson, who had 12 points, five rebounds, five assists and three steals. "We didn't rotate the way we needed to (on defense), and it showed up on the scoreboard."
That perseverance was the difference. Boston College played 10 upperclassmen; USC has two on its roster. "Veterans understand that you keep doing it, keep doing it, keep doing it no matter how it's going for you," Horn said.
For the third time in four games, the Gamecocks struggled with their inside play. USC's starting forwards, senior Sam Muldrow and freshman Damontre Harris, combined for two points and five rebounds.
Muldrow did not score for the first time since November 2009 a span of 37 games. The Florence native was coming off a double-double on Wednesday night.
"There wasn't much there," Horn said of the inside game. "We tried really hard."
The Gamecocks then tried unsuccessfully to rely on 3-pointers and traps to get back in the game.
"The way we play, it's difficult to full-court trap and run guys at us," Boston College coach Steve Donahue said. "Typically, we have five guys out there who all can pass, dribble and shoot, especially from 3. They're much younger, and it probably showed today with our veteran group."
USC guard Brian Richardson's shooting woes continued for a second consecutive game The freshman shot went 1-for-9 on 3-pointers after failing to connect on all six attempts against Jacksonville State.
"For the first time, maybe his confidence has been shaken," Horn said. "He'll just need to continue to work and find a way. He'll be fine."
Freshman guard Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks with 21 points. Junior forward Malik Cooke, coming off the bench for the second straight game, had 13 points and a team-high seven rebounds.
The team did not defend or rebound well, but offensively, "tonight was the best the guys played within themselves, within their roles," Horn said. "They got good shots. We moved the ball better."
Forward Joe Trapani scored a season-high 23 and grabbed nine rebounds to lead Boston College. Reserve forward Corey Raji added 16 points and 12 rebounds. The Eagles had won seven in a row before losing at Rhode Island on Wednesday.