GAME NOTES: A pair of SEC teams are set to square off at Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night, as the South Carolina Gamecocks play host to the Auburn Tigers.
Despite its lackluster 2-6 record in the SEC, Auburn has turned things around of late with back-to-back victories, defeating Alabama on Jan. 30 (74-55) before downing Georgia on Saturday (74-67). However, both of those victories came at home for the Tigers, who are 10-9 overall this season but 0-5 on the road.
With Auburn's recent surge, last place in the SEC now belongs solely to South Carolina, which is 8-13 overall and just 1-7 in the league. The Gamecocks lost their most recent bout at Ole Miss on Saturday, 75-71, but they were able to win their latest game at Colonial Life Arena versus Texas A&M on Jan. 29, 80-52.
The Tigers lead the all-time series with the Gamecocks, 20-14. The teams have split the last 10 meetings.
The Tigers built an eight-point lead over Georgia at halftime of their latest game and held on to that advantage for the entire second stanza en route to their second league victory of the season. They pieced together a strong shooting performance both from the field (.465) and the foul line (.794) and all five starters finished in double figures, led by Chris Denson's 18 points. KT Harrell poured in 15 points on 3-of-7 from 3-point range, Tahj Shamsid-Deen put up 12 points, while Allen Payne and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum both netted 10 points.
The biggest reason for Auburn's struggles this season has been its porous defense, which ranks 13th in the SEC in allowing 71.1 ppg, but its stellar offense (.452 FG percentage, 73.3 ppg) allows it to remain competitive on most nights. Denson is the league's second-best scorer with 19.5 ppg, doing so on just shy of 48 percent field goal shooting. Harrell is right on his heels with 19.2 ppg, having drained 48 3-pointers at a 41.4 percent clip while also connecting on 84.5 percent of his free-throw tries. Dixon-Tatum scores just 5.9 ppg but is a mainstay in the paint with 6.3 rpg and 2.0 bpg.
The Gamecocks appeared on their way to a victory over the weekend, as they led Ole Miss by double digits with under nine minutes to play, but they stumbled by getting outscored 29-10 down the stretch en route to the disappointing loss. Although they shot an impressive 46.9 percent from the field on the afternoon, they were plagued by a game-high 18 turnovers, which turned into 23 Ole Miss points. Brenton Williams drained 5-of-8 from 3-point range on his way to 23 points, while Sindarius Thornwell tallied 20 points, six assists and five rebounds but also coughed up six turnovers.
Much like Auburn, South Carolina owns an underwhelming scoring defense (70.9 ppg) which nearly negates its positive strides on the offensive end of the floor (71.2 ppg). Thornwell is the team's top scoring threat with 13.5 ppg on 43.3 percent field goal shooting. Williams (13.3 ppg) has drained 51 3- pointers at a lofty 41.8 percent clip, and at 95.8 percent (69-of-72), he's the best free-throw shooter in the nation. Tyrone Johnson was also in double figures (11.2 ppg) before he was lost indefinitely with a foot injury.
Although Auburn's hot streak gives it some momentum heading into this matchup, especially against the last-place Gamecocks, it has yet to prove it can win on the road, giving South Carolina the edge to come out on top.
Game Date and Time