A Collective Effort
Down two starters and facing a talented Western Kentucky team, South Carolina Head Coach Darrin Horn knew it would take a complete team performance to capture an important non-conference win.
“People like to say ‘step up,” but I do not believe in that phrase because it implies that somebody has to do something that they are not capable of,” Horn said. “We just need everybody to do what they are capable of..when you look at the game tonight and go back through the stat sheet…I think that every single guy that came in counted and they gave us something.”
Freshman Lakeem Jackson provided the early spark as South Carolina raced to a 17-6 in the opening five minutes and never looked back on its way to a 74-56 win at Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night. A tough defensive effort made things difficult for the Hilltoppers in the first half as Western Kentucky shot just 34% from the field and only made one of six three pointers.
Hustle plays and finishing second and third chances were key for the Gamecocks. With additional minutes opening up due to injuries, the Gamecocks needed to use their energy to adjust.
“With our situation in the past week, it becomes more important because you lose some cushion when you have talent and experience out [of the lineup],” said Horn. “I thought that was a big key to us getting off to a good start. We got every loose ball, we got some put-backs and we moved the ball really well early and made some shots.”
“Every second counts, every loose ball,” said Jackson. “We can’t take any possessions off.”
South Carolina took a 39-25 lead into the locker room at halftime and appeared to be cruising. But the Hilltoppers hit some early shots to begin to close the gap. With Western Kentucky chipping South Carolina’s lead to nine points and carrying some momentum, senior Devan Downey took over. Two free throws and a quick basket pushed the lead back 13 within a minute and the Gamecocks maintained a lead of at least 11 points for the rest of the game. The guard scored 1o of his 15 points in the game’s final ten minutes.
“We need him to be good and he was,” said Horn. “For the last seven or eight minutes, he was in total control of the game.”
Box Score of the Night
|Total FG-FGA||3 pt FG-FGA||FT-FTA||Rebs||Pts||Assts||TO||Blk||Stl||Min|
|F Lakeem Jackson||4-5||0-0||1-2||10||9||4||2||1||2||32|
Jackson played perhaps the most complete game of his short career, finishing with season highs in points, assists, rebounds and minutes played.
“Coach told me when he recruited me not to play like a freshman and that’s the mentality I carry when I play,” said Jackson.
“That’s why he’s here. He’s a winner – period,” said Horn. “I knew he’d respond to the challenge.”
- Five Gamecocks scored in double figures (Downey, Muldrow, Raley-Ross, Galloway and Baniulis).
- The Gamecocks attempted a season low of six free throws. South Carolina hit 5-of-6 on the night from the line.
- South Carolina was hot from behind the arc early, making five of their first six. The Gamecocks finished the night 9-for-22.
- Western Kentucky struggled from 3-point range, making just 3-of-18.
- Sam Muldrow had six blocks, tying his season high and coming just one block short of tying his career high.
“When we come out and defend, I’m never surprised by what this team can do.”