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USC opens home SEC slate against AU

Junior Bruce Ellington made his return to the South Carolina basketball team on Wednesday night in the Gamecocks 56-54 loss to Mississippi State. The return produced his first start of the season but also came just eight days after catching the winning touchdown pass against Michigan in the Outback Bowl. Now, Ellington and the Gamecocks (10-4, 0-1) open the home conference season against Auburn at the Colonial Life Arena.

Guard Bruce Ellington

OPENING TIP
Date: Saturday, Jan. 12, 2013
Tipoff: 1:47 p.m. ET
Location: Columbia; Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Series: Auburn leads 19-14
Last Meeting: Auburn win, 63-52, Jan. 21, 2012, in Auburn, Ala.
Television: SEC Network
Talent: Mike Morgan (pxp), Jon Sundvold (analyst)

The return did not go as planned though, as the junior guard finished the game with over one-third of the Gamecocks’ 24 turnovers as he was credited with nine miscues. Ellington’s struggles did not surprise his head coach though who is more focused on the long term instead of the present.

“He made some mistakes today but he has practiced two days so what do you expect,” head coach Frank Martin asked on Wednesday night following the game. “We want to win every game, that is objective number one but our whole objective is to grow as a team and be the best we can at the end of the year and we have to get him ready to go because he gives us a dynamic at that guard spot that we need.”

Despite the quick turnaround from the football to the basketball court, Ellington did not offer excuses for his performance Wednesday night.

“I just made careless plays,” Ellington said. “I have to be stronger with the ball.”

Ellington had participated with Martin’s squad in the middle of December playing four games during a 12 day span. The work ethic of Ellington to learn what Martin wanted on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball gave the Gamecock head coach the idea to give him his first start of the season when SEC play opened against the Bulldogs.

“That was my plan the whole time,” Martin said. “That has been my plan since watching him practice for 12 days. I think him and Eric give us a one-two punch defensively and we get to start games the way I would like to start defensively.”

If the Gamecocks are to produce positive results during SEC play, Martin is going to rely on the experience that Smith and Ellington will provide him. That is the reason that he will continue to give both juniors the starting nod.

“Eric has played a lot of minutes for us this year and has a good grasp of what we do,” he said. “Bruce has played a lot of minutes in SEC basketball so I think the confidence he brings to start these SEC games is important.”

Part of that experience that Martin will rely on is players like Ellington not allowing the loss on Wednesday night to bother the Gamecocks moving forward.

“I hate losing,” Ellington said. “I hate it with a passion so at practice we are going to go in and try to get the guy’s energy up and try to get the win on Saturday.”

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