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South Carolina-North Carolina A&T Preview: Gamecocks Hope To Continue Winning Ways After Holidays

After four days of rest and holiday celebration, the South Carolina Men's basketball returned to practice the day after Christmas. Tonight, they return to Colonial Life Arena tonight where they will take on North Carolina A&T, marking the first ever meeting between the two schools. The Gamecocks hope to extend their current five-game winning streak

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After a stretch of days including rest, holidays, and practice, the South Carolina Men's basketball team takes the court tonight vs. North Carolina A&T.

The Gamecocks ride into Colonial Life Arena with a five-game winning streak, extending it last on December 21 vs. Coker College. Before that, South Carolina beat down arch-rival Clemson in Columbia. It was the Gamecocks' biggest win over Clemson since 1971. Sophomore guard Duane Notice made a career-high five 3s against the Tigers and senior Ty Johnson contributed a career-high nine assists. In the team's 26-point win over Coker College, Notice once again had the hot hand, pouring in a team-best 19 points. In his second game back from a concussion, junior forward Michael Carrera pulled down a team-high eight rebounds. Players received four days off after the Coker College win, a stretch head coach Frank Martin felt his team deserved. "We've been playing pretty good," Martin said. "I chose to give them four days off because I thought they earned it." Players and coaches returned to normal team activities the day after Christmas and have practiced each day with some light conditioning mixed in.

Despite the Gamecock sleep-walk at times during the Clemson and Coker games, South Carolina garnered large margins of defeat. Combine them with their wins over Oklahoma State and Marshall and the Gamecocks have won their last four games by an average of 23.3 points per game. Three of the previous four games have been in CLA, where Duane Notice has caught fire. In six home games this season, Notice has hit 54.2 percent (13-24) of his three-pointers. Improved outside shooting combined with the best defense during Frank Martin's tenure has propelled South Carolina to their win streak. South Carolina's opponents are shooting 33.8 percent from the floor so far this season, a mark that ranks fifth nationally in field goal percentage defense.

North Carolina A&T (2-12) arrives in Columbia after snapping a 12-game losing streak on Sunday with a 58-54 win over North Carolina Wesleyan. Their win Sunday was A&T's first home game since November 17. The Aggies defeated the Battling Bishops behind strong performances from their two best players: junior forward Bruce Beckford and freshman guard Austin Williams. The first-year guard leads the team in assists per game and dished out three assists while also swiping four steals on Sunday. Beckford is the team's leading scorer (15.3 PPG) and leading rebounder (7.9 RPG). He dropped a game-high 18 points on Sunday vs. NC Wesleyan. Beckford also was a high school teammate of Gamecocks' Ty Johnson and Michael Carrera at national power Montrose Christian in Maryland.

Tonight's matchup will be the first-ever meeting between the schools and will be at 7:00pm ET on ESPN3 where Andy Demetra and Gamecock great Alex English have the call.