College Sports

Gamecocks get first big test

COLUMBIA -- The sweat was hardly dried on Dwayne Day's forehead when he was asked, moments after South Carolina's 103-42 win over The Citadel earlier this week.

"I don't know nothing about USC," Day answered. "Just O.J. Mayo's name, that's it right now."

It's not all the Gamecocks need to know, but it's a start.

One of the most heralded freshmen in the nation will be on the floor tonight when Southern Cal comes to Columbia, the Gamecocks' third game and first big test. Mayo, the Trojans' star freshman who scored 32 points in his debut last week, should start.

It's a bigger theme than the one that seems to be obvious -- will the real USC be proven? All the Gamecocks were interested in after The Citadel massacre was keeping their run of good play going.

Whether all the hype of Mayo is true or not.

"We don't really know anything about one player, we know Southern Cal's a good team," said Devan Downey, who's bringing his own share of hype after being named one of Sports Illustrated's top five impact national newcomers this week. "I'm just so ready for this team to win and get some respect."

Beating Mayo and what's rumored to be a powerhouse-in-the-making Trojans squad would be a big step. It already put tiny Mercer on the map when the Bears thumped Southern Cal 96-81 last week, overcoming a superior effort from Mayo and horrible shooting from everyone else.

But Southern Cal rebounded by steamrolling The Citadel two days ago, something with which the Gamecocks are familiar, and bused into Columbia Friday. The Trojans are doubtless still stung by their season-opening loss and some of their players were on the team last year, when a not-great South Carolina team went to Los Angeles and beat Southern Cal in overtime.

The Gamecocks are confident, though, riding a two-game streak of hot offense and unveiling an exciting team for the future. There's no football game in town to compete with tonight, so they're expecting a full house ready to cheer them on.

"The crowd makes the game even more fun," shrugged forward Sam Muldrow. "We love the support."

Which makes it a simple matter of matching up on the floor. Southern Cal, like South Carolina, only has one senior and is starting a lot of new faces. Mayo is the biggest name, a 6-foot-5 guard who can handle the ball and score, but freshman Angelo Johnson and sophomore forward Taj Gibson also have to be locked down.

"I saw him play in AAU, that's it," Day said, assessing Mayo. "He was OK."

The Gamecocks will counter with Downey, averaging 17.5 points in his first two games and coming one rebound short of a triple-double against The Citadel. Zam Fredrick and Brandis Raley-Ross have developed into a flashy three-guard set with Downey as their leader, while Day and Dominique Archie round out the post.

South Carolina is hoping freshman forward Mike Holmes will regain his touch after getting into early foul trouble for the past two games. Holmes had a double-double in an exhibition win against Guilford and scored 14 points vs. The Citadel, but has been hampered by early trouble with the whistle.

"Youth, inexperience," coach Dave Odom said. "He's capable of being a good low-post defender."

SOUTHERN CAL (1-1) AT SOUTH CAROLINA (2-0)

• When: 7:30 p.m.

• Where: Colonial Center, Columbia

• TV: None

• On the Web: Live Gametracker at uscsports.com

• Tickets: Available at the box office

• Southern Cal's probable starters: G Angelo Johnson 5-11 Fr. (17.0 ppg, 1.0 rpg); G O.J. Mayo 6-5 Fr. (32.0 ppg, 7.0 rpg); G Dwight Lewis 6-5 So. (15.0 ppg, 3.0 rpg); F Taj Gibson 6-9 So. (13.0 ppg, 14.0 rpg); F Keith Wilkinson 6-10 Jr. (0.0 ppg, 5.0 rpg)

• South Carolina's probable starters: G Devan Downey 5-9 So. (17.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G Zam Fredrick 6-0 Jr. (13.0 ppg, 2.0 rpg); G Brandis Raley-Ross 6-2 So. (10.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Mike Holmes 6-7 Fr. (11.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Dominique Archie 6-7 So. (10.0 ppg, 4.0 rpg)

• Notes: Southern Cal comes to town as part of a two-game South Carolina swing, beating The Citadel two days ago and then coming to Columbia. ... The Gamecocks won 80-74 (OT) last year, spoiling the debut of the Trojans in their new home, the Galen Center. ... South Carolina officials are labeling it "The Game for the Name." ... Downey was one rebound short of a triple-double against The Citadel. ... The Gamecocks scored their most points in 11 years the last time out.

• Next up: USC plays Penn State at noon Thursday in Orlando, Fla., in the first round of the Old Spice Classic.

  Comments