COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - It took wide receiver Bruce Ellington three games to work himself into basketball shape. The sophomore point guard scored 15 points off the bench to help rally South Carolina from a double-digit deficit in the first half and defeat Presbyterian 66-58 Tuesday night.
Ellington, who caught 17 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown for the Gamecocks football team, was playing in just his third basketball game of the season. He went 6 of 14 from the field with three assists, a steal and only two turnovers in 25 minutes. He was the Gamecocks' leading scorer in 2010-11.
"This week in practice I got in the gym a lot with the guys and just them backing me up, telling me to keep going boosted my confidence up," Ellington said. "It's real important to get in the gym and get better every day."
South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said Ellington is getting more and more comfortable each time he steps on the floor.
"Once a couple (of shots) went down for him he seemed to regain his confidence," Horn said.
South Carolina (5-4) was just 7 for 29 in the field in the first half (24.1 percent) before shooting 70.4 percent in the second (19 for 27). The Gamecocks had 12 assists on their 19 second-half field goals after having only two in the first half. A switch to a full-court trapping defense allowed them to get more baskets in transition.
"I don't think there is any question that the difference was our defense," Horn said.
The switch in defense seemed to bother the Blue Hose and that took them away from what made them so successful in the first half.
"We probably didn't respect it and we kind of had self-made turnovers, trying to bring it up one-on-two," Presbyterian coach Greg Nibert said. "Their pressure and press really did bother us."
The Gamecocks trailed by six at the half but made 9 of 10 shots to open the second half for their first lead, and never trailed after an Ellington three-point play with 15:37 remaining. That was part of a 21-5 run to open the second half that included South Carolina scoring the final 14 points of the run.
"We got some easy baskets, got a couple of shots to go in and I think that always changes the demeanor a little bit," Horn said.
Malik Cooke added 14 points and Anthony Gill contributed 10 points and eight rebounds for South Carolina.
Khalid Mutakabbir led Presbyterian (4-5) with 15 points.