February 11, 2012

USC looks to challenge Hogs' perfect home record



SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (9-14, 1-8 SEC)
at
ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS (16-8, 4-5)

When: 1:30 p.m. today
Where: Bud Walton Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.
TV: SEC Network
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 So. (10.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Damien Leonard 6-4 Fr. (6.8 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F R.J. Slawson 6-8 So. (5.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg); F Malik Cooke 6-6 Sr. (12.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); C Damontre Harris 6-9 So. (6.7 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Arkansas' probable starters: G Mardracus Wade 6-2 So. (11.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg); G Rickey Scott 6-3 So. (10.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Julysses Nobles 6-1 Jr. (9.0 ppg, 3.8 rpg); F Hunter Mickelson 6-10 Fr. (4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Marvell Waithe 6-9 Sr. (5.9 ppg, 3.1 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina finishes a stretch of four road games among five. … USC has matched its longest losing streak of the season (four games) and is 1-8 over its last nine. … The Gamecocks are 0-3 in February, making coach Darrin Horn 9-24 over the final two months of the season in his tenure. … Arkansas' Michael Sanchez, a 23-game starter, is doubtful with a sprained shoulder. … The Razorbacks have lost their last two games. … Arkansas leads the overall series 13-10, including 7-3 in Fayetteville. … USC has not won a road game since Dec. 4 at Clemson. … USC is in last place in the SEC by a game behind Georgia. The Bulldogs are at Mississippi State today. … Slawson should make his second straight start after the starting five was very strong at Tennessee. Slawson started over Anthony Gill.
Next game: South Carolina hosts Georgia at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.

VIDEO: Darrin Horn


"Not everybody's going to play their best every night," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said on Friday. "But we're not in a position to have two or three guys play sub-par and win, especially on the road in league play."

Another case of South Carolina being right there but unable to take the final step. The Gamecocks had three guards play extremely well and combine for 34 points at Tennessee, but it wasn't enough.

The reason? A big one was defense, or lack thereof. USC allowed the Volunteers to nail 10 3-pointers, four in one stretch at the end of the first half that erased a spell where the Gamecocks led and answered every basket. Still, if USC had had some points to equal the 3-pointers, perhaps the 14-point deficit early in the second half wouldn't have been so difficult to make up (the Gamecocks got it to three before running out of gas).

They didn't get it, from three players they were counting on. Those three combine with the three guards, perhaps it's different from the current 9-14 record (1-8 SEC).

Anthony Gill scored one point. Damontre Harris had two. Malik Cooke had nine, but only after a late surge in the second half broke him off of a two-point production.

The Gamecocks have some good pieces, but if they're all remaining in the box instead of joining the puzzle every night, the results will continue to be the same as they have been. With the next game, today at Arkansas (16-8, 4-5) already a formidable challenge, USC has been working on getting everybody to do what they can do, every night.

The good news is that the Razorbacks are reeling, having lost two straight and being down to eight healthy scholarship players. Michael Sanchez sprained his shoulder in a loss at Georgia and is doubtful, meaning the bench is only going to get thinner.

The bad news is that USC is heading to a place where the home team has been perfect all season. The Hogs are 16-0 at Bud Walton Arena this year, having lost every game on the road or at a neutral site, and have an extra incentive to play well today.

Former coach Nolan Richardson, who led Arkansas to the 1994 national championship and who had current coach Mike Anderson on his staff, will be in the building along with several players of that team. The reason is to catch the premiere of ESPN's new documentary, "40 Minutes of Hell," which chronicles Richardson's aggressive defense and the Razorbacks' rise to superiority.

The show will be broadcast after the game, with the audience welcome to stick around and view it. The Gamecocks are simply hoping to give the audience something to forget before they start remembering.

"We have a good group," sophomore R.J. Slawson said, saying the team wasn't losing faith. "We're going to stay strong, and stay together."

If that comes with everybody doing what they can do, perhaps it will reverse the current fortunes and start a season-ending stretch of improvement.

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