GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks will try to continue their recent surge on Wednesday night when they venture to Bud Walton Arena for an SEC showdown with the Arkansas Razorbacks.
South Carolina began its SEC slate of games with just one win in its first 10 games, but it has turned things around with back-to-back wins, downing Vanderbilt on Feb. 13 (65-59) before edging Alabama on Saturday (67-66). The Gamecocks are still a lackluster 10-15 on the season, which includes a winless road record in nine tries.
Arkansas has also been on the upswing of late with wins in three of its last four contests, most recently defeating LSU at home at Saturday afternoon, 81-70. The Razorbacks are now 16-9 overall, including 5-7 in the SEC, and most of their success has come at Bud Walton Arena (13-2).
The Razorbacks lead the all-time series with South Carolina, 14-11, but the Gamecocks won the most recent matchup on Jan. 26, 2013, 75-74.
Although South Carolina led for most of its latest tilt, it allowed Alabama to take a lead with under two minutes remaining, but with just 14 seconds to play, Mindaugas Kacinas drained the game-winning bucket when he tipped in his own miss. The squad outshot Alabama from the field, 48.9 percent to 41.9 percent, and where led by a 22-point effort from Sindarius Thornwell, who shot 6-of-11 from the field and 9-of-10 at the free-throw line. Brenton Williams added 10 points and Duane Notice dished out six assists.
On the season, the Gamecocks have a solid offensive attack, shooting 43.1 percent from the field for 70.2 ppg, but unfortunately they allow their opponents to outpace them with both numbers (.443, 70.6 ppg). Thornwell is in the midst of a stellar freshman campaign, scoring a team-high 13.9 ppg while swiping more than a steal per outing. Brenton Williams (13.6 ppg) has 62 of the team's 135 3-pointers, and at 77-of-80 from the stripe (.963), he's the nation's most accurate free-throw shooter.
Arkansas coughed up a halftime lead over the weekend and trailed LSU by three midway through the second half, but it caught fire down the stretch en route to the 11-point home victory. It shot 45.8 percent from the field, compared to just 39.4 percent for LSU, and it earned a 17-8 scoring advantage at the free- throw line and won the turnover battle, 17-11. Rashad Madden was especially active at the foul line (12-of-14) on his way to 21 points. Coty Clarke (16 points) and Bobby Portis (15) combined to haul in 17 rebounds, while Michael Qualls rounded out the balanced effort with 13 points.
The Razorbacks have the SEC's most potent offensive attack, scoring 81.2 ppg on just shy of 45 percent field goal shooting, which more often than not is good enough to mask a lackluster scoring defense (70.8). The squad also benefits from an outstanding +5.9 turnover margin, which is fourth-best in the country. Portis and Madden both pour in an identical 13.2 ppg, with Portis doing so on 53.9 percent from the field to go with 6.7 rpg. Qualls (11.5 ppg), Alandise Harris (9.1 ppg) and Clarke (9.1 ppg, 5.7 rpg) are also consistent contributors, and in total 12 players score at least 2.8 ppg for the deep team.
The Gamecocks' impressive play of late aside, they'll be hard pressed to earn their first road win of the season in an environment as hostile as Bud Walton Arena. Expect the Razorbacks' balanced attack to get the best of South Carolina in this one.
Game Date and Time