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USC's Horn preaching focus

USC's Horn preaching focus

South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington, a former Berkeley High standout, has topped 20 points in a game six times this season.

COLUMBIA -- After upsetting Vanderbilt and Florida in the first week of SEC play, South Carolina coach Darrin Horn just might have the league's most surprising team in mid-January. But it's mid-January.

"It's great to get a road win and it's good to beat a good team, in Florida," Horn said. "But at the same time, it's just our third league game in the year. I think we don't need to get lost in that."

Horn continues to preach focus to the young Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC), who host Arkansas (12-4, 2-1) tonight. The tip is set for 8 p.m. on WMMP.

As of Tuesday afternoon, USC said about 4,000 tickets remained for the game at Colonial Life Arena.

Last week was a perfect example of how South Carolina, which starts three freshmen and a sophomore, is destined to ride waves of inconsistency through the conference schedule.

The Gamecocks shot a season-low 28 percent and committed a season-high 20 turnovers in a loss at Alabama in which they scored 47 points. Three days later at Florida, they emerged a completely different-looking team.

USC held a double-digit lead most of the afternoon, reducing its number of turnovers to a season-low eight -- three in the second half -- and hitting a season-high 44.3 percent of its shots.

Horn said returning to a team concept is what altered the result. Freshmen Bruce Ellington and Damontre Harris paced the Gamecocks at Florida. Ellington, the former Berkeley High point guard, had 23 points. Ellington scored South Carolina's final six points, including all four free throws in the final minute to ice the game.

The Gamecocks, though, have sort of gotten used to Ellington performing. It was the sixth time this season he had topped 20 points.

Harris' outing was new. Inserted in the starting lineup at the start in January because of his length, Harris was aggressive against the Gators on both ends of the floor. He finished with eight points, four rebounds and three blocks, most of which came in a first half that helped USC get out to a big lead. Harris was also effective against Florida's imposing Vernon Macklin.

South Carolina now returns home for three consecutive games. It hosts the conference's top team, Kentucky, on Saturday, and then its worst, Auburn, a week later.

South Carolina is currently tied with Florida, Georgia and Kentucky for the lead in the SEC East.

It is a solid start for the Gamecocks, Horn said, but it's just a start.

"We haven't done anything yet," he said. "We've got 13 games left. You've got to come out and do it the next day to be successful."

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