BOSTON COLLEGE EAGLES (10-3) at SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (8-3) When: 5:30 p.m. today Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia TV: ESPNU Tickets: Available at the box office Boston College's probable starters: G Biko Paris 6-1 Sr. (10.9 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Reggie Jackson 6-3 Jr. (18.8 ppg, 4.3 rpg); F Danny Rubin 6-6 Fr. (7.3 ppg, 2.6 rpg); F Joe Trapani 6-8 Sr. (13.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg); C Josh Southern 6-10 Sr. (8.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg) South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 Fr. (13.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Brian Richardson 6-4 Fr. (8.3 ppg, 2.1 rpg); F Lakeem Jackson 6-5 So. (8.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg); F Damontre Harris 6-9 Fr. (2.8 ppg, 3.3 rpg); C Sam Muldrow 6-9 Sr. (9.7 ppg, 6.5 rpg) Notes: South Carolina plays the second in a stretch of four straight home games. ... The all-time series is tied at one win each. USC won in 1971 and BC won last year in Chestnut Hill. ... Rookie BC coach Steve Donahue has gotten off to a strong start with a team expected to finish low in the ACC. ... The Eagles are shooting 48 percent from the field and 39.6 percent from the 3-point line. ... Harris is expected to make his second straight start today after replacing Malik Cooke in the lineup against Jacksonville State. ... Ellington is expected to be fine after suffering a mild sprained ankle against JSU. He played on the ankle during the second half. ... The penultimate game before the SEC season. Next game: South Carolina hosts S.C. State at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.
It was proven again.
Sam Muldrow scored 11 points, snared 11 rebounds, swatted three shots and had two steals on Wednesday. South Carolina beat Jacksonville State 56-49.
Muldrow -- or more specifically, Muldrow when he is Muldrow -- is not the only reason the Gamecocks win, but when he's at his best, USC is at its best. The past two games have represented the story for Muldrow -- he plays well, Gamecocks beat JSU; he doesn't play well, Furman beats USC.
"When he comes out with an aggressive mentality, to dominate the game and around the basket at both hands, we don't have to worry about, did he get touches, and how was he used, and all that," coach Darrin Horn said after the Furman loss. "He rebounds, he blocks shots, he finishes, and he's been doing that, outside of a handful of the first few games."
Muldrow was aggressive early against the other Gamecocks three nights ago, and it paid off in the result. Playing with a different starting lineup -- freshman forward Damontre Harris took over as junior Malik Cooke came off the bench -- and with top scorer Bruce Ellington limited with a sprained ankle, Muldrow needed to be present.
So he was.
Muldrow paved over the rough spots created by Ellington's absence and the still-learning aspect of Harris -- the big man only scored six points but blocked two shots -- helping hold off a charge by JSU. The Gamecocks rebounded from a disappointing effort at Furman with a win, not a dominant one but it was a win.
"I just tried to go out and play hard, go out and help my team," Muldrow told GamecockCentral.com "Nobody likes losing."
He acted like it. Like he did against Clemson and Delaware State, Muldrow was strong from the tip. In a year where there is no consistent scorer or dominant defender to depend on, Muldrow has to be the one who sets the example -- if everybody has to do what they can do in order to win, the senior has to start the trend.
"It's just about a mentality," Horn said after Furman. "He's really been doing that. He did it at Ohio State against as good a frontcourt as there is in the country. But we're much better when he's good. That's just a reality."
The Gamecocks need to be at their best today, when a hot Boston College team comes to town. The Eagles have won 10 of 13 games, over some impressive names, mixing a wealth of experience into a winning combination under first-year coach Steve Donahue.
Although it's in the afternoon and may give many USC fans a chance to return from an Atlanta football game the day before, the chances for a sold-out, jumping Colonial Life Arena on New Year's Day are slim. USC has to depend on strong play, not a strong atmosphere, to win today, and if it can, it will help erase the Furman loss.
While nothing can ever truly take that away, in the eyes of the NCAA tournament selection committee, a quality win over Boston College would be traded for a loss to the Paladins. It would give the Gamecocks a huge boost heading into their next two matches, each at home. One is against S.C. State, the other is the SEC opener against Vanderbilt.
It's getting to be about that time. Muldrow will be there for the ride.
If he's truly there in the middle, the Gamecocks will be better for it.