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South Carolina-Auburn Preview: Gamecocks Aim To Sweep Alabama Schools

Earlier this week, the South Carolina Gamecocks earned their first SEC win with a home win against the Alabama Crimson Tide. On this college basketball filled Saturday, Frank Martin and his team tip-off against Bruce Pearl and his Auburn Tigers, a team that has won six straight at home.

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

After making several comeback runs of their own, the Gamecocks staved off a closing run by Alabama on Tuesday night to earn their first conference win of the season.

Senior guard Tyrone Johnson again led the Gamecocks in scoring, like he's done in each of South Carolina's three conference games this season. He is averaging 15.3 points per game in SEC play so far this year. The Gamecocks were also aided by two key performances off the bench in the form of junior forwards Michael Carrera and Mindaugas Kacinas. Anthony Grant presents a solid basketball team this season, a team that is very capable of making the NCAA Tournament. This solid first SEC win for South Carolina is evidenced by Alabama's Top 50 RPI rating. The Gamecocks' 68-66 win over the Crimson Tide marks the home team's third win this season against an RPI Top 50 team.

Next up on the docket is the Crimson Tide's arch-rival, the Auburn Tigers.

South Carolina (10-5, 1-2) and Auburn (9-7, 1-2) are part of a handful of teams in the SEC sitting at 1-2 in conference play thus far.

The big story, basketball wise, on the Plains this year was the hiring of former Tennessee coach Bruce Pearl as the program's head basketball coach this past offseason. For a program that hasn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2003 and for an athletic director that truly aims to possess a solid football-basketball duo, Bruce Pearl was a home run hire. In 10 seasons as a Division 1 head coach, Bruce Pearl has made the NCAA Tournament in eight of them. While at Tennessee, Pearl won three SEC East titles, one SEC championship, and never missed the NCAA Tournament.

The Auburn faithful have jumped on board, the team's average attendance has jumped by about 2,000 people from last season's average and season tickets sold out for the first time in the program's history.

As far as on-court performance in his first season, Pearl has some talented kids who play very hard, but the defense and overall record don't necessarily show it. Auburn opponents are shooting 44.4 percent from the field this season, a number that would give Frank Martin severe health problems. Guards K.T. Harrell (16.4 PPG) and Antoine Mason (14.4 PPG) can really fill it up and will certainly be a handful for the Gamecocks Saturday night. Mason is the son of 14-year NBA veteran Anthony Mason. He also was the nation's returning leading scorer in the country entering this season. Mason transferred from Niagara University, where he was constantly amongst the nation's leading scorers, after graduating in the offseason. In the post, the Tigers boast forward Cinmeon Bowers who is an absolute beast, averaging a double-double this season (13.5 PPG, 11.3 RPG). The Gamecocks will need to rotate several post players on Bowers to help with the load and hopefully wear Bowers down.

Auburn is coming off a 75-55 loss at the hands of the Florida Gators in Gainesville. The Tigers take on the Gamecocks at home, where Bruce Pearl's team has won six straight.

This is certainly a road game South Carolina could lose. Will they? That remains to be seen but one thing's for sure, sophomore guards Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell need to get their talent back from the MonStars. After a horrid first half against Alabama, Notice exploded with eight straight points to open the second period but his star died down after that stretch. Tyrone Johnson has been the only constant scoring threat for the Gamecocks in conference play and that needs to change if they hope to get to .500 in league play tonight.

The two teams last played in last year's SEC Tournament, a game that was a 74-56 South Carolina win. The game tips off at 8:30pm ET at Auburn Arena and will be broadcasted on the SEC Network.