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March 25, 2009

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina head men’s basketball coach Darrin Horn met with members of the media on Wednesday afternoon to discuss the 2008-09 hoops campaign and his thoughts on next season.

Read below for an excerpt of Coach Horn’s media session.

On the state of the program…
From day one and from every day forward, regardless of what point we’re at, it’s always going to be about the program for us, and building that. And I think we made some real strides in that area. We talked about wanting to make a home court advantage at the Colonial Life Arena, and I don’t think there’s any question that happened. That’s a credit to our fans, especially our student fans. So I think you can go back and look at a lot of things like that in trying to establish our style of play…you take a lot of positives from it. Ultimately, you want to compete for championships; we sort of did that but we didn’t really finish the way we needed to. And we want to play in the NCAA Tournament, but that didn’t happen either. So we need to continue to grow. But it’s always going to be about (establishing a) program, regardless of what we’re talking about this time of year.

On implementing his system…
I don’t know anybody that does anything in a business, school, basketball, church or anything that in one year, they’re saying, “OK, we’re all set, we’re doing it just the way we want it.” It’s going to continue to take time in building a comfort level with our guys and understanding and being able to do it exactly the way we want to do it. Again, I thought we established that and made some great strides in it, but I think experience and depth and all those kinds of things are going to continue to add to it.

On the role that a year’s worth of experience will play…
I don’t think there’s any question that it will help. I think experience plays a big role. Experience in knowing how we do things, experiencing success on the court and knowing that you can do it. A big part of that is knowing how to handle it if you do have some (success). In my mind, the biggest difference in the last five games, from the Kentucky game on, we thought we were successful and we got away from the things that make us good or gave us an opportunity to be good and had given us some success to that point. I think all of those experiences, whether they’re good or bad, go into continuing to mature and grow your program.

On areas for improvement next year…
We stayed really basic this year with a lot of stuff because of our numbers; we were trying to lay a foundation for it. No matter what we’re doing, it’s about effort and it’s about trying to play unselfishly. Obviously, defense is something that’s going to be a focus for us and continuing to try to improve that. But again, a lot of those things are going to come with understanding and them (the student-athletes) knowing exactly what is expected of them in particular situations and all those kind of things that come with experience.

On having the bulk of the squad back next season…
I think it’s good to have both the guys that have experienced it, and I think it’s good to be adding some guys that, as they’re learning at the college level for the first time, they will be learning the way we want to do things. I think you can take positives from both of those things.

On next year’s non-conference schedule…
It’s going to be the same as this year. We want to have a non-conference schedule that challenges us, but at the same time, puts us in a position to prepare as best we can to do well in league play. Everybody’s talked a lot about non-conference scheduling because of what happened with the SEC and seeding and that type of thing, but we looked at the Sweet 16 teams and there’s really not a lot of those teams playing more than three or four BCS-type schools in their non-conference. And some of those resulted from an exempt tournament where you play two or three that way. Our goal would be to do that same thing. Western Kentucky will be on the schedule next year; they’re going to be top 100 every year, top 50 a lot of years. I think our non-conference schedule will be one that will challenge us, but at the same time will prepare us the way we want to be prepared heading to conference play.

Season Notables
SEC Double-Digit Victories
South Carolina reached double-digit victories in league play this season for the first time since the 1998 SEC campaign when the Gamecocks earned the No. 2 seed in the SEC Tournament with an 11-5 record in conference play. South Carolina has reached double-digit league victories just three times (1997, 15-1; 1998, 11-5; 2009, 10-6) in its 18-year history in the SEC.

Gamecock Quick Hitters
• South Carolina was 16-3 at home this season with losses to archrival Clemson on Dec. 30, Tennessee on March 5 and a loss to Davidson in the first round of the NIT on March 17.
• The Gamecocks owned a 5-6 overall record on the road this season, including notable victories at then-No. 19 Baylor and then-No. 24 Kentucky.
• The Gamecocks relied heavily on their starting lineup for the majority of their point production on the season. Carolina was 21-4 when its starters outscored the starting five of its opponent. Gamecock starter points accounted for just better than 80 percent of South Carolina’s overall point production on the year.
• South Carolina played just one game on a neutral floor this season, dropping an 82-68 decision to Mississippi State in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament in Tampa.
• The Gamecocks were 13-5 in games in which a Carolina player scored at least 20 points. Devan Downey scored at least 20 points 15 times this season.
• Junior forward Dominique Archie has started all 93 games of his South Carolina career. Archie looks to surpass the 1,000-point plateau for his career during his senior campaign, as he needs just 59 points to reach the mark.
• A team that uses its defensive prowess to spark its offensive performance, South Carolina was 20-3 in games in which it scored more points off turnovers than that of its opponent.
• Carolina was 20-6 in games in which it forced 15 or more turnovers on the year. The Gamecocks recorded a school record when they forced NC Central to 34 turnovers in a mid-December matchup.

Zam Fredrick Concludes Solid Career
Graduating senior guard Zam Fredrick concluded his college career at South Carolina with a successful senior season. Fredrick surpassed the 1,000-point plateau for his entire career (including two seasons spent at Georgia Tech) during the season and finished his career just 46 points shy of 1,000 in the Garnet and Black. Fredrick secured two Gamecock buzzer-beater victories on the year. His lay-up with five seconds remaining on the clock clinched an upset of then-No. 19 Baylor on Jan. 2, while he also hit the winning lay-up with nano seconds left on the clock in Carolina’s upset over No. 24 Florida on Jan. 21. Fredrick concluded his college career with 11.7 points per game, 2.3 rebounds per game and 2.6 assists per game.

20-Win Season
With its victory over Kentucky on Feb. 25, South Carolina secured its first 20-win season since the 2005-06 campaign.

Devan Downey Among Nation’s Elite
Devan Downey secured another impressive season in the statistical categories in 2008-09. Downey led Carolina with 19.8 points per game, scoring a total of 614 points – the most by a Gamecock in a single season since Zam Fredrick Sr. posted 781 points during his school record-setting season in 1980-81. Downey’s 614 points rank sixth in the Gamecock record book. Downey continued his strong effort on the defense end as well, swiping 89 steals (2.9 per game). His 192 career steals at Carolina rank fourth in the career record book, while his 3.0 career steals per game average currently ranks atop the Gamecock record book. Downey scored double figures in 30 of South Carolina’s 31 games in 2008-09, including 15 20-point and two 30-point efforts. He collected his 1,000th career point (including one-year total from Cincinnati) and also tallied his 1,000th point in the Garnet and Black during the season.

SEC Streaks – Homestyle
With its loss to Tennessee at home on March 5, the South Carolina men’s hoops team broke an impressive streak of SEC home victories. Entering the contest against the Vols, the Gamecocks owned a seven-game HOME SEC win streak (Jan. 10, Auburn, 68-56; Jan. 21, Florida, 70-69; Jan. 24, Ole Miss, 82-71; Jan. 28, Vanderbilt, 86-76, Feb. 7, Georgia, 79-68), its first since the 1998 campaign when the Gamecocks won their first seven league games at home (Jan. 7, Vanderbilt, 71-71; Jan. 10, LSU, 70-53; Jan. 21, Tennessee, 81-51; Jan. 28, Florida, 74-72; Feb. 11, Alabama, 74-63; Feb. 14, Mississippi State, 74-63; Feb. 24, Georgia, 78-76). A 69-57 loss to Kentucky halted that streak.

Wins Over Ranked Compeition
South Carolina defeated three ranked opponents during the regular season – topping then-No. 19 Baylor on Jan. 2, defeating No. 24 Florida on a last-second lay-up by senior guard Zam Fredrick at home on Jan. 21, and earning a league road victory over then-No. 24 Kentucky on Jan. 31. The three wins over a ranked opponent mark the first time South Carolina has defeated three ranked opponents in a season since defeating No. 5 Florida (68-62), and later that season No. 6 Florida (71-67) and finally defeating No. 18 Tennessee (79-71) in the SEC Tournament during the 2005-06 campaign.

Last Road Win Over Ranked Non-Conference Opponent
The 85-84 road victory over then-No. 19 Baylor on Jan. 2 marked the first Gamecock road win over a ranked non-conference opponent since a 97-83 road victory over then-No. 8 Cincinnati at the Shoemaker Center on Feb. 15, 1997. South Carolina, who was ranked No. 12 at the time, was led by Larry Davis with 32 points, while B.J. McKie added 25 points and seven rebounds. South Carolina finished that season 24-8 and claimed its only SEC regular-season title. South Carolina was led by head coach Eddie Fogler that season.

Horn In League Play
Following the SEC season-finale win over Georgia on March 7, Darrin Horn’s career record in conference play stands at 67-27 (.713). Horn owned a 57-21 (.731) record in league play during his time at Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers competed in the Sun Belt Conference.

Historic Start
With his victory over USC Upstate on Nov. 22, Gamecock head coach Darrin Horn became the first Gamecock head coach since the World War II era to win his first three contests. Horn captured his fourth win on Nov. 25 against Gardner-Webb, however he failed to tie Johnnie McMillan’s mark of five straight games with the loss at College of Charleston on Nov. 28.

Double-Double Mark
When Dominique Archie (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Mike Holmes (14 points, 13 rebounds) each registered a double-double in the Nov. 16 victory over Winthrop, it marked the first time two Gamecocks collected a double-double in the same game since Rolando Howell (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Tony Kitchings (10 points, 10 rebounds) both tallied a double-double in a 60-55 overtime loss to Georgia on March 9, 2003, a span of 169 games.

Gamecocks Return To Postseason Play
South Carolina’s appearance in the postseason NIT was its 11th overall and first since the 2005-06 season when the Gamecocks earned their second-consecutive postseason NIT Championship. South Carolina has won the postseason NIT twice (2005, 2006) and finished as the tournament’s runner-up in 2002. South Carolina owns a 21-9 record in postseason NIT contests after the 2009 season.