The kind of team Darrin Horn wants to have was at Colonial Life Arena on Saturday.
On the other bench.
Boston College used a balanced, disciplined, sharply executed offensive attack to blister South Carolina 85-70, showing the Gamecocks what can happen when a team stocked with experience clearly knows every niche of its game. The Eagles (11-3), a team that uses the 3-pointer to set itself up early and is flying miles higher than expected under first-year coach Steve Donahue, ran the same game plan they have used all season and began to roll.
The Gamecocks (8-4), still learning how to maximize their individual talents into a team approach, stayed even for the first 10 minutes, then succumbed under a barrage of scorching shooting.
"We've got to learn how to play through those stretches," Horn said. "We knew we needed to defend the 3, and we did not do that."
The Eagles came into the game having shot 308 3-pointers, making 48 percent, and began their plan early. Speedy perimeter passing all around the Gamecocks' flustered defense yielded 16 looks and eight makes in the first half alone; USC kept pace for the first 25 seconds of a possession only to lose one step in the final 10.
Ramon Galloway swished a 3 to give the Gamecocks an 18-16 lead with 9:30 to play in the first half, giving the slim-pickings New Year's Day crowd something to cheer about, but USC's ability to hang with Boston College quickly petered out. The Eagles kept shooting and making; the Gamecocks disappeared.
The Eagles made nine of their final 10 shots in the first half, mixing inside and out and spreading the ball to Joe Trapani, Biko Paris and Reggie Jackson. So complete was their rout that center Josh Southern, normally reliable for around 10 points per game, was an afterthought (two points, two rebounds).
"Our team needs to be about defense and rebounding," Horn said. "(The Eagles) know what they can do. Veterans understand that. You just keep doing it."
USC got 21 points from Bruce Ellington, who drove to the basket for his early points and kept it up, mixing a few outside jumpers in; and 15 from Galloway, who displayed more of his fearless style but left a few wide-open looks on the rim. The Gamecocks otherwise slipped into their familiar-of-late trap -- outside of Ellington, they simply don't have a consistent scorer.
Brian Richardson, regarded as the team's best pure shooter, was a mere 1-of-9 from the field and scored five points, not finding the touch on several open looks from 3. Center Sam Muldrow, who simply has to be a presence every night if the Gamecocks are going to be successful, was a ghost.
The senior center played 18 minutes and had no points with one rebound. Offensively, the Gamecocks didn't go to him that often early, but gave him the ball during the middle of the game and hoped for the best. What they got were outside shots and an 0-for-6 showing from the field, and next to nothing on defense -- Trapani was matched up with Muldrow most of the afternoon and walked right around him for a game-high 23 points.
Jackson had 14, Paris had 18 (nine in the game's first seven minutes, all on 3-pointers) and Corey Raji had 16. The Eagles converted 13 of their 32 3s and shot 51.6 percent overall from the field, also out-rebounding the Gamecocks by 14.
The Gamecocks didn't give up, cutting a 27-point deficit to 20 and ultimately to 15 as BC emptied its bench. Lakeem Jackson (12) and Malik Cooke (13) joined Ellington and Galloway in double figures but it was too little, too late; the Gamecocks had seven fewer turnovers, three blocks and 11 steals but couldn't stop BC's shooting.
"That was supposed to be the game plan," Jackson said. "We were supposed to defend the 3. We didn't rotate the way we needed to, and it showed up on the scoreboard."
USC will host S.C. State at 7 p.m. on Tuesday in its final game before SEC play.