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January 5, 2009
After big win, USC readies for Wofford
WOFFORD TERRIERS (4-5)
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (10-2)
When: 7 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
Tickets:Available at the box office
Wofford's probable starters: G Brad Loesing 6-0 G (6.1 ppg, 1.9 rpg); G Corey Godzinski 6-8 Jr. (7.0 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Matt Estep 6-3 Sr. (1.4 ppg, 0.6 rpg); G/F Tim Johnson 6-5 So. (9.9 ppg, 9.4 rpg); F Drew Crowell 6-9 So. (3.0 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Devan Downey 5-9 Jr. (20.8 ppg, 2.7 rpg); G Zam Fredrick 6-0 Sr. (15.8 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Brandis Raley-Ross 6-2 Jr. (6.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Dominique Archie 6-7 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg); F/C Mike Holmes 6-7 So. (12.8 ppg, 8.8 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina leads the series 39-18 and has won 20 straight over Wofford. The Gamecocks have not played Wofford since the 2005-06 season and the Terriers have not beaten USC since 1939. Downey has scored 60 combined points in his last two games. Raley-Ross is in the starting lineup for the third straight game. Fredrick only needs seven points to pass the 1,000-point mark for his career. The Gamecocks are leading the SEC in 3-point percentage (40 percent). This is USC's last nonconference game.
Next game: USC begins SEC play by hosting Auburn at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
Calming down might be the biggest problem.
South Carolina, coming off a hard-fought home loss to archrival Clemson, rebounded in a big way by beating then-No. 19 Baylor on the road three days ago. It was the Gamecocks' first win over a ranked non-conference team since the 1996-97 season.
It was huge, no question.
But it can't be the defining point of the Gamecocks' season. Not with 17 regular-season games left to play.
"We have to (keep going)," point guard Devan Downey said after the Clemson game. "We showed we can play with those guys."
Downey, who's scored 60 combined points in his last two games, seemed to be speaking for all of the Gamecocks. USC (10-2) hosts Wofford (4-5) tonight in its last non-conference game before beginning SEC play on Saturday, and the mission begins at 7 p.m.
Specifically, USC has to make sure the Baylor win stays the Baylor win. It will not beat Wofford or put the Gamecocks in the NCAA tournament.
It can be a step toward those, but the Gamecocks have plenty of work to do first before they can begin counting on the Baylor win contributing to their RPI/strength of schedule that the NCAA selection committee will be sure to examine.
"I haven't seen anybody in the SEC," USC coach Darrin Horn said after the Clemson game. "I don't watch TV, but they'll have to be really good to be better than the team we just played."
Horn can relax. Outside of No. 14 Tennessee, the league doesn't appear to be that strong.
At 10-2, the Gamecocks can begin to sort-of plan out their method. A win over Wofford tonight gets them to 11-2. A 9-7 SEC mark would make them 20-9, which would be a definite NCAA bubble spot.
The RPI and significant wins would then come into play. A few of those nine league wins over Tennessee, Kentucky, Florida or Vanderbilt would definitely help. Whipping the SEC West and going winless against the East would not.
But the Gamecocks don't need to worry about RPI and strength of schedule right now. All they have to worry about is winning. The rest of the factors - for instance, USC would be attempting to go 9-7 when it hasn't had a winning SEC record since the 1997-98 season - come into play much, much later.
It's why USC didn't waste much time after the Baylor game patting itself on the back.
Plenty of time for that later.
GamecockCentral.com's Wayne Turner contributed to this report