PRINCETON, N.J. -- Darrin Horn challenged his team to perform on the defensive end and South Carolina responded in a big way.
Led by Devan Downey's 22 points, six assists and seven steals, the Gamecocks cruised to an 84-58 win over Princeton on Tuesday night at Jadwin Gym. The 26-point margin was the Tigers' worst home court loss since a 30-point loss to Albright in 1929.
"We were glad to get a road win," said the first-year Gamecocks coach, whose team improved to 5-1 on the season. "Coming into the game we were focused on using our defensive pressure and I thought our guys did a terrific job. We got great play from our bench pressuring the ball. We forced them into 26 turnovers and had 18 steals. We turned those into a lot of offense and I was really just pleased with our effort overall."
Downey filled out the stat sheet with his performance, but he wasn't alone in leading USC to the win. Zam Fredrick had 20 points on 7 of 11 shooting, while Evaldas Baniulis scored 15 points on 6 of 7 shooting. Mike Holmes added 13 points and Dominque Archie chipped in with eight points, eight rebounds and four steals.
The win got the Gamecocks back on the winning track after an overtime loss at College of Charleston on Friday.
"Coach Horn challenged me to be better defensively," said Downey, who has 19 steals in six games. "Going out every night, I have to be a game-changer. I can't worry about offense because the offense will come. The way my team is going to need me the most is on the defensive end to be a game changer. That is going to put our team in the best position to win games."
Princeton took its only lead of the game, 24-23, on a Zach Finley basket with 5:53 left in the first half, but the Gamecocks responded by scoring the final 15 points before halfime to break the game open, 38-24.
"We gave up a couple easy baskets and they got to the rim on a couple layups," Horn said. "They snuck in a couple threes in a row. We told our guys to keep attacking with the pressure. For us, it all started on the defensive end. And it all starts with Devan Downey. This was probably his best defensive game, and not just because of the seven steals. Those steals resulted from great pressure on the basketball and doing the job defensively for us."
Princeton never got closer than 13 points in the second half, with the Gamecocks at one point building a 33-point lead at 80-47. It was an impressive effort against a team known for playing a style USC is unlikely to see again this season.
"We won't see this style again," Horn said. "Nobody in our league runs it exclusively. There are some teams that do some things out of it and some concepts of it. I think Vandy a little bit. But a team that runs this exclusively, we won't see it again."
On the one night the Gamecocks did see it they handled it well. And now they'll begin a stretch of five straight December home games when they host Furman on Friday.
"It was a big win and what was bigger was we challenged our guys to get it done on the defensive end and they responded really well," Horn said.
No responded better than Downey.
"We have worked so hard," Downey said. "Coach Horn and his staff do a great job of preparing us. To get off to this good a start, we just have to continue to bring it every day in practice. To start like this is good, but we want to keep getting better throughout the year."