For first time in seven seasons, the South Carolina Men's basketball team will take on the UNC-Asheville Bulldogs on the hardwood. The Gamecocks and Bulldogs last squared off during the 2007-2008 season. During the last meeting, UNC-A upset South Carolina 61-58 on January 5th, 2008 in Columbia. The game featured a 10-0 run by the Bulldogs to close out their upset over South Carolina.
This season the Gamecocks enter as 14-point favorites over the Bulldogs. South Carolina comes in following two tough losses to UNCC and Akron in the Charleston Classic after beating Cornell in the tournament's opening round. The Gamecocks found themselves down by as many as 12 in the second half but rallied to tie the game at 55-all with just under 7 minutes left. Akron however used timely free-throw shooting down the stretch to close out their win over the Gamecocks. Head coach Frank Martin was worried about his team's edge entering the Akron game after a tough and dissapoiting loss to UNC-Charlotte. "I was concerned about our 'oomph' after our tough loss to Charlotte," Martin said. "I was concerned we wouldn't have the resolve." Perhaps that 'oomph' wasn't all there in both of South Carolina's losses in Charleston. The Gamecocks average 11.8 turnovers per game but had a season high 17 turnovers vs. UNCC and hit 17 again, tying the season high, vs. Akron on Sunday night. Turnovers and poor shooting are a bad cocktail and that mixture will keep you from winning games. South Carolina made just 1-of-13 attempts from the field in the early portion of the first half vs. Akron. South Carolina's leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell had 20 points and 13 points against the 49ers and Zips respectively but shot a combined 12-of-36 in the two games, including 2-of-14 from 3-point land.
The Gamecocks' opponent tonight boasts a strong duo in the backcourt that can hit it from way out. Guards Andrew Rowsey and David Robertson can make it rain from deep if left uncontested. Rowsey, however, is the star for the Bulldogs and a player that South Carolina has to account for on every possession. Rowsey averaged 20.3 points per game last season on his way to being named Big South Freshman of the Year. So far this season he is averaging 25.8 points per game, fourth nationally, and hits around 50% of his three-point shots. In the last two weeks Rowsey has gone for 26, 28, and 29 against Wake Forest, East Carolina, and East Tennessee State respectively. The sophomore also made 15-of-16 free throws in the Bulldogs win over East Carolina. UNC-Asheville is 2-2 on the year with wins at ECU and at home vs. Johnson & Wales while suffering losses at Wake Forest and at ETSU. Freshman forward Kem Ubaru, who's earned two-straight Big South Freshman of the Week awards, is also a player to watch. He's averaging 13.8 points per game and tallied 17 against both ECU and ETSU. In their latest game, a road loss to ETSU, the Bulldogs committed 23 turnovers. They cannot succumb to South Carolina's stifling on-ball pressure if they hope to pull off another upset vs. the Gamecocks.
This marks South Carolina's fifth game in a nine-day span and the first of five of their next six at home in Colonial Life Arena. The game is at 8 p.m. ET and will be broadcasted on SEC Network as well as WatchESPN.