COLUMBIA -- South Carolina's early nonconference schedule has offered little in the way of competition. That comes next week.
In the meantime, the Gamecocks have done what they were supposed to do, a process that continued Tuesday night with a 75-56 victory against Presbyterian.
This game featured some new sights as big men Dominique Archie and Mike Holmes hit the majority of 3-pointers, and 5-9 Devan Downey posted up in the lane.
However, as soon as it was over, attention turned to next week's visit by No. 22 Clemson, followed by a trip to No. 21 Baylor.
It's hard to judge the Gamecocks' chances based on what they did against Presbyterian or in their previous nine games. Entering the day, South Carolina's strength of schedule was dead last among 343 teams in Division I, according to CollegeRPI.com.
Still, South Carolina (9-1) has mostly taken care of business, winning its eight home games by an average of 22 points, all by double-digits. USC went 1-1 on the road, routing Princeton and losing at College of Charleston.
The result of the weak schedule is a lower RPI but a higher-confidence level, according to the players.
"When you're playing with confidence, you really take your game to another level, you've got guys out there playing confident in themselves," Downey said.
Downey might have been speaking about three players in particular Tuesday.
Holmes celebrated his birthday by scoring a career-high 19 points and hitting his first 3-pointer at USC. (Coach Darrin Horn's birthday is today.)
Brandis Raley-Ross, in his third game back from injury, had 8 points, 9 rebounds, six assists.
But the most encouraging game was Archie's. The junior forward scored a season-high 19 points, starting the game by stealing a pass and converting the ensuing layup. He made his first eight shots.
With 40 seconds remaining, Archie punctuated his big first half by grabbing an outlet pass at halfcourt, taking two dribbles and throwing down a one-handed, crowd-pleasing dunk.
"I was surprised it was that wide-open," Archie said of the dunk. "I was also surprised that they didn't try to block me on the vertical jump. I was kind of insulted about that."
Presbyterian (5-7) had played close at Georgia and Ball State, but South Carolina ran away with a 13-0 run in the first half. The game was never close after that.
The Gamecocks also played well in long spurts without Downey, who was in foul trouble. The star guard rallied for 13 points in 24 minutes.
Afterwards, there was little talk of Clemson. The emphasis was on taking a two-day break for Christmas, with thoughts returning to basketball Friday.
Horn was asked how he felt his team had progressed thus far. The Gamecocks, according to Horn, made strides in effort and sharing the ball, which Horn said was the focus.
But Horn also seemed to sense that the true gauge of progress was up ahead.
"We've seen a lot of good things, but we've got a lot of room to grow," Horn said. "As the competition increases, those things will be exposed and we'll know what to work on."