On Wednesday night South Carolina will take part in a game that is within an arena that bears the name of the greatest college basketball player of all-time.
The Gamecocks take on the LSU Tigers in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in a game that pits two teams heading different directions.
South Carolina (10-8, 1-5) has lost five of their last six games while LSU (15-4, 4-2) has won two in a row, four of their last five and looks primed for an NCAA Tournament appearance.
The last time we saw the Gamecocks, they were getting hounded by No. 1 Kentucky and their shots were getting swatted into outer space.
The Wildcats gave South Carolina a 58-43 loss Saturday afternoon in Colonial Life Arena in front of the first sellout crowd since the 2011 season. The Gamecocks outrebounded John Calipari's gang of MonStars 40-28, including an 18-3 margin on the offensive glass. South Carolina's 12-of-53 (22.6%) shooting performance is what doomed them in front of the raucous crowd. I'm quite sure at certain points during the game that Colonial Life Arena had never been louder.
Sophomore guard Sindarius Thornwell led the Gamecocks in scoring for the second straight game, tallying 14 points in the contest. His performance was aided by Michael Carrera who pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, five of which were offensive. Thornwell, Carrera, and USC's team defense, which held UK to it's lowest offensive output this season, are the only reasons why the result wasn't worse.
Tonight's match-up starts a stretch where three out of the next four games will be on the road for South Carolina. LSU is coming off a similar stretch. The Tigers won road games at Ole Miss and Florida as well as an overtime win at Vanderbilt this past weekend. The Bayou Bengals will be happy to return home, where they are 9-1 this season.
LSU is led by sophomore forwards Jarell Martin and Jordan Mickey. Martin's 17 points per game average leads the Tigers and ranks third in the SEC overall. Mickey is not far behind, he averages 16.1 points per game which ranks fifth in the SEC. He averages a double-double in leading the Tigers in rebounding, grabbing 10.7 boards a game. That mark ranks second in the SEC and 12th nationally. The beast also averages 3.6 blocks per game which is tops in the SEC and second in the entire country.
Rounding out the Tigers starting lineup are guards Josh Gray and Keith Hornsby with center Darcy Malone manning the middle. Gray's 4.8 assists per game is second in the SEC and Hornsby is the unsung-hero of the group. He's nailed 36 triples this year and also averages double-figures (12.4 PPG).
The last two match-ups between the two schools have featured signature performances by Gamecock players. Last season, then-freshman Sindarius Thornwell scored 25 points, hitting 9-of-13 from the field. Thornwell's performance was almost matched by then-sophomore Jarell Martin, who added 18 points and five steals while leading the Tigers to a 71-68 win. In 2013, then-freshman Michael Carrera poured in 23 points and 10 rebounds against LSU and the overtime game resulted in Frank Martin's first SEC win. Carrera scored 21 of his career-high 23 points in the second half and overtime.
LSU has won six of the last 10 games between the two schools but South Carolina has won the last two meetings at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. The Gamecocks may just have one win in conference play but every game has been somewhat close. Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice, and Tyrone Johnson are all averaging double-figures and they'll need to come out with a sense of urgency. LSU will not be able to sleepwalk through this one but South Carolina will need to find an answer to stopping Mickey if they want to succeed. A poor shooting performance will doom the Gamecocks again no matter how well they play defense so striving for easy, transition buckets needs to be a part of the gameplan.
The game will be on SEC Network and tips-off at 7:00pm ET with Mike Morgan and Dane Bradshaw on the call.