On the first day of December the South Carolina Men's basketball team will face its first true road test. Before South Carolina encounters Oklahoma State in the SEC-Big 12 challenge, the Gamecocks face a Conference USA foe. They travel tonight to play the Marshall Thundering Herd in Huntington, WV.
South Carolina broke its losing streak the other night versus UNC-Asheville but the Herd are still seeking to break their current skid. Marshall started off the season 3-0, all games at home, before hitting the road to play #7 Louisville. The Cardinals thrashed them 87-65. The Thundering Herd returned home again, only to lose to Morehead State and Cleveland State by nine points each, thus equaling their three-game winning streak with a three-game losing streak.
Marshall is without their best player from last season, PG Kareem Canty, who transferred this offseason to Auburn. Canty led the team in points and assists as a freshman and made the most three-pointers on the team last year. After the season he was named to the Conference USA 3rd-Team as well as the Conference USA All-Freshman team. Another member of the C-USA All-Freshman team takes the reins this season. Sophomore wing Ryan Taylor leads the Herd in points per game, rebounds per game, assists per game, and blocks per game. The 6-5 225, Indianapolis native has been the alpha-dog for Marshall this season, dominating the boards on the defensive end while taking nearly twice as many shots as any of his teammates. Taylor tallied 19 points and nine rebounds in Marshall's latest loss to Cleveland State. The Thundering Herd shot 7-of-24 in the first half against Cleveland State but mounted a comeback in the second half. While shooting 54.5 percent from the field in the second period of play, Marshall rose to within three of the Vikings with 2:28 remaining after a three-pointer from JP Kambola. Cleveland State however closed with a 9-1 run after that moment to seal their victory.
The Gamecocks head into their first true road game after a duel in which its trio of guards finally showed some synergy. Tyrone Johnson, Sindarius Thornwell, and Duane Notice combined for 36 points in South Carolina's home win over UNC-Asheville last Wednesday. Thornwell is the only South Carolina player averaging double-figures (13.5 PPG) right now but he's shooting a woeful thirty-eight percent from the field, including twenty percent from behind the arc. The good news is that South Carolina got a much-needed win after suffering three losses in their last four games by a combined 11 points. Each of South Carolina's starters at least scored 12 points against the Bulldogs the night before Thanksgiving. Lithuanian big man Laimonas Chatkevicius led the way with 17 points and 13 rebounds, his first career double-double. "After two losses, the whole team was just trying to go out there and do their best," Chatkevicius said afterwards. "Just happened to be me being in the right spot." Consistency has always been the issue with Chatkevicius and head coach Frank Martin noted that this was the kind of performance he wants from his center. "I told him after the game, I've been challenging him for two-and-a-half years to play up to his capabilities more consistently," Martin said. "He did that in the second half."
Chatkevicius got the start after junior Michael Carrera missed the game because of a concussion and a left foot injury. Carrera has been in a walking boot and on crutches to take care of his foot issue and the team is weary of the protocols to follow after a player suffers a concussion. At this moment there is no news on whether Carrera will play tonight vs. Marshall.
Martin complemented his defense despite allowing a season-high 75 points last Wednesday night because they were facing a "special player" in UNC-Asheville sophomore Andrew Rowsey. Tonight the Gamecocks face-off against another special sophomore in Marshall's Ryan Taylor. The game tips at 7:30pm ET on CBS Sports Network.