COLUMBIA -- It is no great revelation that you will not win many college basketball games -- even against poor teams -- by scoring 12 points and making just 5 of 26 shots in the first half. That's exactly what South Carolina did in Tuesday's 67-57 loss to Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks' offense was more productive in the second half, when they shot 15 of 25 and scored 45. But the listless first half led to a 10-point halftime deficit that USC was unable to overcome.
As coach Darrin Horn searched for answers heading into today's 7 p.m. game against 19th-ranked Florida, he decided to alter his lineup. Sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington -- the leading scorer last season and No. 2 scorer this season -- will start for the first time this year, replacing sophomore Eric Smith.
Against Vandy, Ellington shot 8 of 12, scored 20 and had three assists and no turnovers in 24 minutes. He started the second half over Smith, who played 16 minutes, shot 0 of 4, scored no points and had an assist and a turnover.
Ellington seems to be back in basketball form after missing seven games, including the first six, while playing for USC's football team.
"His growth has been exceptional," Horn said. "He has the ability to impact the game in so many ways."
After Tuesday's game, Horn said Smith "just didn't give us a lot in the first half, in all honesty" and that Ellington provides "a little bit more ability to get in the paint" and "responded really well in the second half."
Said Ellington: "Coach just told me to attack the basket, and that's what I did. Nothing's going to change (with starting now). I just want to help the team win."
Horn will also start sophomore Brian Richardson at shooting guard in place of junior Lakeem Jackson.
Inconsistency is a reality for a team as young as USC, which has just one senior and one junior. But if the Gamecocks want to have even a halfway decent SEC record, Horn can't afford too many more games after which he says, as he did Tuesday, "In some cases, there were a couple of individuals where, when the ball ended up in their hands, our offense completely stopped."
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