COLUMBIA -- For the third consecutive season under Darrin Horn, South Carolina is throwing dirt on its basketball season while others are continuing into the madness of March.
That's not something Horn -- now 50-41 at South Carolina following a 14-16 postseason-less season -- takes lightly. He would rather be playing. He would rather be playing in the NCAA tournament, which the Gamecocks have not reached since 2004.
"I'm as disappointed as anybody that we didn't win more games, especially down the stretch -- and that we didn't get better," Horn said Wednesday morning to begin a postseason wrap-up news conference. "I'm disappointed in that probably more than anything."
The regression for the Gamecocks included a 3-1 start in SEC play that melted away to the team dropping 11 of its final 13 games, including five of six games at Colonial Life Arena.
Among the major issues, there were large chunks of games in which the Gamecocks simply could not meet the primary object of the sport: put the ball in the basket and accrue points for doing so.
South Carolina shot 39.5 percent from the field as a team -- ranked 319th of 335 qualifying Division I programs. At 67.6 points a game, the Gamecocks were 206th in scoring offense. They made 31.3 percent of their 3-point attempts, 259th in the nation.
"It's one of those things that's obvious that needs to be evaluated," Horn said. "I don't know how you felt, but it's painful to watch a college team miss layups. Painful. Even the last game of the year, against Ole Miss, how many layups did we miss right at the rim?"
Evaluating is sort of the buzzword for Horn right now, and through the offseason. He conceded that there were some misses in how players were evaluated this past season.
He admitted that with sophomore shooting guard Ramon Galloway during the season. The staff thought much more of Brian Richardson going into the year, but his struggles were more understandable, Horn said, because he was a freshman.
"The efficiency we got from the 2 guard spot was just abysmal. Even nights we got some points from there, it was the shooting percentages," Horn said. "You think sophomores are going to do better."
Freshman point guard Bruce Ellington, despite leading with the team with nearly 14 points a game, went backward because of a calf injury that limited him. Without more natural scorers on the floor, Ellington, the Berkeley product who has said he wants to be a pass-first player, forced a lot of things that weren't there.
Sophomore Lakeem Jackson didn't seem to take great strides as a get-to-the-basket scorer, and then a foot injury torpedoed his season.
Freshman guard Eric Smith and freshman forward Damontre Harris were the bright spots, progressing in the ways in which most expected the rest of the team to do. Freshman wing R.J. Slawson, from the Lowcountry, did the same to a lesser extent.
Horn wasn't shy Wednesday in pointing toward Mississippi transfer Murphy Holloway as someone that could help USC in 2011-12. Holloway, from Irmo, had to sit out after going from one D-I program to another.
Horn didn't want to label the 6-7, well-built Holloway as the program's "savior," but said he'll provide the Gamecocks with a proven finisher around the basket.
Additionally, USC adds 6-7 forward Anthony Gill from Charlotte. Horn said Gill shot 69 percent in a good high school league this season. And the Gamecocks will bring in Greenville-area product Damien Leonard, a much-needed pure shooter.
A glance at the numbers says Horn will have to figure something out about the roster size, but he didn't hint Wednesday at any defections.
Despite a second consecutive losing record, Horn says he has hope for what he's building in terms of a program. He said he still feels as if he has the support he needs from the school, including athletic director Eric Hyman.
"I'm still excited about the direction we're heading," Horn said. "We love the young talent we have and how we're continuing to build. We just have to continue to put it together."
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