The Gamecocks meet the Southeast Louisiana Lions of Hammond Louisiana tonight at the Colonial Life Arena at 7:00 p.m. The game should be carried on television by SportsSouth, and also streaming on ESPN3 (subject to blackout).
The Lions of the Southland Conference are coached by Jim Yarborough, who is currently in his sixth season. Yarborough - a former College of Charleston assistant - has had a decent run in Hammond in replacement of Billy Kennedy (who took the head coaching job at Texas A&M in 2005 after the Lions made the NCAA's). SELA is currently 5-4 on the year. They dropped their opener to Tulsa but have played tough in their other early season match-ups, including a five point loss at Western Kentucky after Thanksgiving, and three back-to-back OT games against Louisiana Tech, Southeast Missouri and Southern at the beginning of the month (going 2-1 in that stretch). Most recently, they played Arkansas at the Bud Walton Arena, losing by only seven - 62-55.
Lion's guard and team leader Brandon Fortenberry, a preseason all-league first team selection, hurt his foot during practice earlier this month, and it's unclear if that injury will limit him. We can expect strong play from senior 6'4" G/F DeShawn Patterson and junior 6'6" F Roosevelt Johnson . Sophomore guard Jeremy Campbell can also score, and the Lions can count on upper-classmen depth from senior F Elgin Bailey and junior Guard Darrin Populist - both of whom scored double-digits against the Hogs.
It's going to be a good match-up tonight. The Cocks were in the game against Ohio State until the waning minutes - a couple of key three-point misses late against OSU could have tipped the balance in favor of South Carolina - this is definitely a much better squad than the one that dropped to Elon and Tennessee State. The Cocks' aggressive defense should create turn-overs, but the Lions are also known for their strong perimeter defense and they have more upperclassmen veterans on their roster - which can pay big dividends. The Lions have also played their share of close games, but I look forward to big performances from USC's Malik Cooke, Bruce Ellington and Anthony Gill to carry Carolina to victory.
We can hope for decent crowd support, but I'm not holding my breath either. The lack of fan turn-out continues to be our biggest Achilles Heel.
Prediction - USC 71, SELA 61.