COLUMBIA --- South Carolina coach Darrin Horn says he won't be rebuilding anything next year.
After all, Horn said Friday, the Gamecocks didn't put down much foundation to build on during the first losing season of his college career.
"Rebuild what?" Horn said "We're not rebuilding from a 'Hey, we won 25 games and we all got to enjoy the NCAA Tournament this year and oh, how are we going to replace all that.' We won 14 games."
For sure, there were landmark moments. Star guard Devan Downey led the Southeastern Conference in scoring and helped the Gamecocks (14-15) beat a No. 1 team for the first time in program history with a 68-62 victory over Kentucky on Jan. 26.
Still, Horn says South Carolina came up far short of its goals.
It was only two seasons ago that Horn was among the country's hottest coaching commodities after leading Western Kentucky into the NCAA's round of 16. Now, he sat behind a table beneath South Carolina's Williams-Brice Stadium football facility, talking about plans for next season.
And it's a year Horn won't be able to count on the dynamic Downey to lead the way.
It's ludicrous and a bit insulting, Horn said, to think anyone could replace Downey, who at 22.5 points a game was the SEC's only player to average more than 20 this season, with the Gamecocks in 2010-11. Still, Horn thinks a combination of returning players plus a solid group of highly regarded newcomers should bring South Carolina more depth and versatility.
"To me, it's moving forward," he said.
Early injuries cost the Gamecocks. Forward 6-foot-7 Dominique Archie, a former Josey standout, got hurt in South Carolina's fifth game, an injured knee costing him the season. Two games later, 6-7 forward Mike Holmes was sidelined with an eye injury which Horn said that came from horsing around at home. Holmes did not play again and was dismissed by Horn on New Year's Day.
Horn was forced to back off his uptempo style and put the ball squarely into Downey's hands.
For a while, that seemed good enough as South Carolina opened league play 4-3, a stretch that included the win over Kentucky.
It was soon evident that the 5-9 Downey couldn't do it alone and the Gamecocks faded.
Horn will have experience returning in forward Sam Muldrow, who led South Carolina in rebounds and blocked shots. Four first-year players in Lakeem Jackson, Ramon Galloway, Stephen Spinella and Johndre Jefferson saw significant playing time because of the early injuries and will be called to step things up.
Archie has petitioned the NCAA for a sixth season. Horn says the application is in the NCAA's hands but is not sure when he'll know something.