College Sports

Horn wasting no time with Gamecocks basketball team's quick start

COLUMBIA -- Darrin Horn didn't come to South Carolina to waste time. So with his new team off to its best start in three years, the young dynamo from Western Kentucky must be busily planning to keep the success flowing into Southeastern Conference play in a few weeks.

Uh, not so much.

"We're just trying to get better every single day, as boring as that sounds," Horn said Wednesday.

Horn's approach has worked so far.

The Gamecocks are 6-1, their best opening since the 2005-06 season -- one that ended with South Carolina's last true national splash with its second consecutive NIT championship. Then came two losing seasons (and a 9-23 record in SEC play), Dave Odom's departure and an opportunity for Horn to jump to the big leagues.

But Horn, who made headlines last March when his Hilltoppers advanced to the NCAA tournament's round of 16, says he won't talk about the SEC to his players until it gets here on Jan. 10 against Auburn.

"Other than to point out, if (the SEC) is what you're worried about this is all the time we have left to get ready for it," Horn said. "And if you waste these days thinking something doesn't matter than you're not going to be as good as you can be when those times come."

Like many teams in the early season, the Gamecocks haven't faced their sternest tests. They routed an NCAA tournament team in Winthrop last month, then won handily at Princeton last week. Their lone loss came to Bobby Cremins' College of Charleston club.

There have been a number of positives for South Carolina.

It leads the SEC in 3-point shooting and is second in margin of victory. Point guard Devan Downey tops the league in steals and is fourth in scoring at just under 20 points a game. The Gamecocks are on an 11-day break between games to refine their play and correct their mistakes.

The time off might also heal a couple of banged up Gamecocks in guard Brandis Raley-Ross and forward Sam Muldrow.

Raley-Ross has been out since spraining his left knee in the Gamecocks' season-opening win over Jacksonville State. However, Horn says Raley-Ross may have improved enough to see some action in the next game Tuesday with North Carolina Central.

Muldrow, the team's second tallest player at 6-foot-9, had not played this season because of academic issues. Then Tuesday, Muldrow sprained his left elbow and will be out indefinitely, the coach said.

The Gamecocks likely get a couple of more games to boost their confidence and their play against mid-majors North Carolina Central, The Citadel and Presbyterian. That's when things stiffen up with rival Clemson on Dec. 30 and a trip to much improved Baylor on Jan. 2.

Horn likes how his players have responded to his style, which is quicker tempo on both ends and demands maximum effort. It's not the time, though, for pats on the back and taking it easy.

"There's maybe two or three teams in the country that are so deep and so talented and just show up and not be their best and still be pretty dang-gone good," Horn said. "For the rest of the 300-or-whatever (teams) there are, we need to focus on what we do well. We've been talking about that."