South Carolina's in-state rivalry goes down on the hardwood tonight as Clemson travels to take on South Carolina in the Gamecocks' Colonial Life Arena.
The Tigers (6-3) have half of their wins this season over SEC opponents. They met LSU at the Paradise Jam, defeated them and then returned home where the upset #18 Arkansas and handled Auburn in the midst of a four game homestand. Clemson is propelled by their impressive starting lineup which features each starter averaging over 10 points per game. In Clemson's latest victory, Rod Hall and Damarcus Harrison combined for 39 points against Auburn. Hall had a career-high 20 in that game and his best play this season has come against Clemson's three SEC opponents. In Garnet And Black Attack's Q&A preview for this game with Ryan Kantor of Shakin' the Southland, Kantor wrote, "In those wins, Rod Hall was aggressive and made the big plays down the stretch. He totaled 39 points across two games. Add in the LSU win, and Hall has 64 points against three SEC opponents compared to 50 points against six non-SEC opponents." On the inside, the Tigers are led by Jaron Blossomgame (12 PPG, 9 RPG) who produced a double-double in Clemson's last game. The Tigers end their homestand and now travel to Colonial Life Arena, their first true road game of the season.
South Carolina's significant victory over Oklahoma State came in the Cowboys first true road game of the season. The Gamecocks were led by the trio of Duane Notice, Sindarius Thornwell, and Tyrone Johnson. The musketeers combined for 46 points, with 20 coming from Notice's hot hand. It was his fourth straight game in double-figures as well back-to-back games of 20 or more. "From a confidence standpoint, I can't get too high or too low," Notice said. "I can't get complacent. I've just got to keep going." Thornwell (13 points, 9 rebounds) and Mindaugas Kacinas (9 points, 12 rebounds) fell just short of double-doubles vs. Oklahoma State. South Carolina's offense the past few games has been a revelation but the team's defense has continued to be its foundation. Oklahoma State entered Colonial Life Arena as the Big 12's second highest scoring team as well as the conference's second best shooting team in terms of field goal percentage and 3-point makes. The Cowboys also led the Big 12 in scoring margin, a category they're also ninth in amongst the entire country. With all that being said, the Gamecocks held the Cowboys to their lowest point total in five seasons. Frank Martin's team used a 20-4 run in the second half to break the game open and South Carolina never looked back.
Due to exams, South Carolina hasn't played since December 6th, something that prompted Frank Martin to tell the media that if they saw his scheduler around, "tell him he's fired." Clemson has had time off as well, although not as much as USC, the Tigers last played on December 14th. It will be the 165th meeting between the two schools in basketball, a series South Carolina leads all-time 88-76. However, Clemson has won the last two seasons and has wins in three of the last five meetings. The Gamecocks are favored but they'll need the trio to perform at a high rate on both ends to make sure the traveling Clemson fans can't cheer: "Just like football."