Gamecocks await return of Ellington vs. Providence

South Carolina hopes the return of Bruce Ellington, last year’s leading scorer, can spark a team that has lost four of five when the Gamecocks host Providence in the Big East/SEC Challenge on Thursday at Colonial Life Arena.

Ellington, who scored 12.8 points per game last season, joined the team Monday after the football team completed its regular season. The sophomore point guard played receiver and returned kicks for the football squad.

The teams played each other in their only previous appearance in the event, with the Gamecocks winning 68-67 in Philadelphia in 2007. Providence leads the all-time series 4-3, but South Carolina (2-4) has won the past two meetings.

The Friars (5-2) snapped a two-game skid with an 82-77 home win over Holy Cross on Tuesday, holding off a late charge after leading by as many as 16 in the second half.

After providing a spark off the bench early, sophomore guard Gerard Coleman has played his way into the starting lineup recently. He averages 16.7 points and 6.7 rebounds — one of four starters who average double figures in scoring.

Junior guard Vincent Council leads the way with 18.0 points per game. Council posted his first double-double of the season against Holy Cross with 19 points and 11 assists.

South Carolina’s only win in its past five games was nearly an embarrassing loss, as the Gamecocks had to rally to beat Mississippi Valley State at home.

South Carolina lost two games in Las Vegas last week, falling 87-62 to then-No. 1 North Carolina and 63-60 to Southern California.

The Gamecocks have been getting more players involved — sophomore forward Damontre Harris scored a career-high 15 points against Southern California, and sophomore forward R.J. Slawson had career highs with 13 points, 14 rebounds and four blocks in Friday’s loss to North Carolina.

Adding Ellington to the mix should help, too. Ellington scored in double digits in 17 games as a freshman. Ellington was the last South Carolina player to score 30 or more points when he tallied 31 against Furman on Dec. 22, 2010.

TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPNU

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