An inspection of Darrin Horn’s SEC record at USC proves that Horn benefited greatly in his first year because of talented players he inherited, last second buzzer beaters, and a down SEC. The numbers also illustrate Horn’s inability to build on the talent he inherited and make headway in a conference that remains, sans a few teams, very mediocre. In fact, not only has Horn’s program failed to improve in conference play, they have become steadily less competitive over the course of the past three seasons.
Here’s the breakdown of the numbers:
Horn is 23-37 in SEC play in his four plus seasons in Columbia. Out of those 23 wins, six came on shots that were hit in the last minute of the game. Three of those came in Horn’s first and best SEC season. One win came when Buck Fredrick made a buzzer beating layup in the final three seconds off a full court pass from Mike Holmes following a missed Gator free throw. Holmes was also the hero with a tip in at the buzzer in a two point win at Alabama that season. And Devon Downey scored a last second shot to win at Kentucky as well.
The Gamecocks finished 10-6 in the SEC that year, but failed to make the NCAA Tournament.
The next year USC finished 6-10 in conference play, with one of the wins coming from a Downey bucket with less than a minute to play to take down Georgia by one point in Columbia.
Both of USC’s wins this season have come on baskets in the final minute of play, Bruce Ellington hit the game winner against Alabama last month and Malik Cooke scored the go ahead bucket against Georgia last week.
A quarter of Horn’s wins at USC have come on buzzer beaters or shots in the final minute and one third of them have been by three points or less.
On the flip side, 24 of Horn’s 37 losses (64.9%) have been by double digit margins. That includes eight this season. That doesn’t include the two double digit losses in SEC tournament games against Mississippi State in year one and Ole Miss last year.
As far as double digit SEC wins go, Horn has five of those in his four plus seasons. All five came in his first season. The last time the Gamecocks beat an SEC team by double digits was March 9, 2009 at Georgia. The final was 68-51. The Gamecocks have played 44 league games since without a double digit win.
Keep in mind the SEC has not been considered a particularly strong basketball conference over the past four seasons. In Horn’s first year only three SEC teams made it to the NCAA Tournament, four team made it in 2010 and five earned bids last year. Kentucky, Florida and Tennessee are the only conference teams that have won an NCAA Tournament game in the past three seasons.
As far as team stats go, USC has gone from averaging 80.4 points per game in Horn’s first year to 62 points per game this season. They shot 46 percent from the floor in year one compared to 41 percent this year. Their turnover margin has dropped from +5.8 to +1.3 and their rebounding totals have also slipped in each of the past three seasons (36.5 rpg in year one, 31.3 this year).
Horn continues to tell anyone who will listen that he’s in the process of building a strong program at USC. The numbers tell a different much different story. Horn isn’t closing the gap in the SEC, he’s falling futher and further behind the pack.