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November 19, 2010

USC Wallops Radford

South Carolina knows it has several options to score.

All of them showed up on Friday.

The Gamecocks shook a chilly first 10 minutes to thrash Radford 85-56, improving to 2-1 and giving everybody on the roster not only a chance to score, but a chance to star. USC led by 30 points at halftime and barely stopped accelerating afterward, flirting with a 40-point lead several times and whipping the Highlanders (2-1) into early surrender.

USC missed the first 100-point game of coach Darrin Horn's tenure, but that was the only disappointment of the evening. The Gamecocks did whatever they wanted to, taking advantage of a severely undermanned opponent that couldn't find the net until it was much too late.

"It's great to have a bench," Horn said. "I'm really enjoying that. I don't know if everybody else is. But it's saving my voice -- I don't have to scream and holler as much, I can just take them out. For some reason, the bench speaks much more loudly than a coach does."

The theory was simple -- after USC took a lead it couldn't possibly lose, Horn put five out on the floor. One or sometimes all five didn't produce, the next ones went in.

It worked. The Gamecocks got at least four points and two rebounds from everybody, with four in double figures. Rapidly improving sophomore Stephen Spinella led the team with 15 points, his second career-high in two games, while Brian Richardson had 11 points and Lakeem Jackson and Bruce Ellington each had 10.

"Not really focusing on shooting the ball, I'm focusing on the little things like defense and rebounding," Spinella said. "With that, shots are going to come, and it's just falling into place for me."

It was only 10-6 with 11:46 to play and each team was freezing from the field, the Gamecocks holding a 17.6 shooting percentage. Horn called time to adjust a game plan that was built on working the ball inside to Sam Muldrow; the Gamecocks couldn't find room to pass and Muldrow missed a couple of early shots.

He didn't shuck it, but told the team to keep pressuring. "We wanted to come out and just finish the half strong," junior Malik Cooke said.

It worked, for both teams. USC and Radford each snapped out of their doldrums, but USC did it a lot faster and more consistently.

Spinella stroked a 3-pointer and was followed by one from Muldrow, while the Highlanders got a jumper from Blake Smith. Richardson hit, then Johndre Jefferson rebounded a missed Muldrow chip shot as the Gamecocks stormed in front.

Radford never recovered from the initial burst and was out of the game within five minutes. The Gamecocks used the duration to show off their depth, a luxury that hasn't been around for the first two years of Horn's reign.

USC out-rebounded the Highlanders 51-34 and blocked eight shots, with nine steals. The Gamecocks forced 20 turnovers and everybody had at least one very nice statistic to boast about.

Damontre Harris hauled in 10 rebounds despite only playing 20 minutes. Cooke had seven points and seven rebounds. Muldrow had three blocks, putting him a few steps closer to the school's career record. Jackson raised every eyebrow in the building by swishing every one of his four free throws.

Spinella held the spotlight, the crowd chanting his name late in the game and the player obviously feeling it. On his last shot, which looked like a 3-pointer but was ruled a two, Spinella was dancing downcourt, tongue wagging and holding up three fingers on each hand.

"(Horn) wasn't mad," Spinella said. "He just looked at me with that sort of smile-grin."

It was excusable. Spinella scored 39 points all of last year. He has 25 in his last two games.

USC will host USC Upstate at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Box score

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