A week away from Thanksgiving, the South Carolina Men's basketball team hits the road for Charleston, SC and the Charleston Classic. Tonight's tip-off in the Charleston Classic pits the Gamecocks vs. Cornell University. The two schools have only met one previous time, a 83-60 South Carolina win in 1970. The Gamecocks look to rebound after a tough home loss to Baylor while Cornell tries to continue their progress.
Cornell's head coach is not Andy Bernard but Bill Courtney who enters his 5th year as the head man of the Big Red. He was hired after the 2010 season when then head coach Steve Donahue left Ithaca for Boston College. Donahue led Cornell to three consecutive Ivy League titles and three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances in 2008, 2009, and 2010. Courtney has not found the same success at Cornell, only winning more than 10 games twice in his 4 seasons, a 12-win campaign in 2012 and a 13-win season in 2013. After an impressive road win to open the season against George Mason and a win in their home opener against Colgate, Cornell matched their season total in wins from last season already. That's right, the Big Red won 2 games last season. After finishing 2-26 last year, Cornell is off to a 2-1 start, the lone loss coming at Loyola. They are led by a trio of seniors: Devin Cherry (12.3 PPG, 6.0 RPG, 5.3 APG), Galal Cancer (11.3 PPG), and Shonn Miller (16.0 PPG, 9.3 RPG). Cornell is actually without their best player from the last few seasons, forward Errick Peck. Peck was lost for the season last year but was not granted a 5th year of eligibility because Ivy League schools do not let their players play as graduate students. He'll finish his college career at Purdue while Devin Cherry takes charge of the Big Red. Cornell was down by double-digits for the majority of their contest vs. Colgate but Cherry led his squad back for the win. He ended with 21 points, five assists, four rebounds, and three steals as the Big Red closed on a 28-9 run to capture their second win.
South Carolina also mounted a comeback in their latest game but couldn't close like Cornell did. The Gamecocks, down by 10 for the majority of the second half vs. Baylor, trimmed the Bears lead to 2 with under a minute to play. South Carolina was unable to finish off their revival as they fell for the second consecutive year to Baylor as part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. There is still reason to be optimistic in Columbia. The Gamecocks looked impressive in their 81-56 opening night win over North Florida and put up a valiant effort to force a close game against a well-coached Baylor team despite a very poor shooting performance. South Carolina shot 40.7 percent from the field versus the Bears, which included a 5-of-21 showing from behind the arc. The Baylor zone forced them into several shots from outside which definitely isn't a strength for the Gamecocks. South Carolina has had several contributors through two games but senior Ty Johnson has led the way. Johnson (16.5 PPG, 3.0 APG, 3.0 RPG) tallied 21 points vs. Baylor. The Gamecocks also boast a rotation that features six players averaging at least 7.5 PPG. Freshman Marcus Stroman has been a big bright spot for South Carolina thus far. Stroman has dished out nine assists with only one turnover in his first two collegiate games. Preseason All-SEC wing Sindarius Thornwell bounced back after a poor opening night game to combine with Johnson to score 37 of South Carolina's 65 points Tuesday afternoon.
Frank Martin was adamant that his team's loss to Baylor would help them down the road. Courtney's Cornell team has struggled offensively thus far but has been solid on the defensive end and if he doesn't play zone against South Carolina, he should be fired. The game tips at 7:30 ET and will be broadcasted on ESPN3/WatchESPN. The winner plays either UNC-Charlotte or Penn State in the semifinals of the tournament tomorrow. The losers of both games will meet in a consolation game.