South Carolina (6-0) vs. Western Carolina (2-3)
WATCH: 7:00 p.m. ET, SEC Network
Before South Carolina hits the floor for tonight's tip with Western Carolina, the Gamecocks were hit with two bits of news Monday afternoon. The weekly Associated Press Top 25 was released and USC found itself in the "receiving votes" category, earning five votes in this week's poll. The Gamecocks also received four votes in the USA Today/Coaches Top 25, also released today.
Following South Carolina's 9-3 nonconference slate last season, USC received votes in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the 2009 season.
Senior forward Mindaugas Kacinas was named SEC Player of the Week around the same time the poll results were released. The Lithuanian averaged 13 points and seven rebounds in two wins last week.
Fresh off a Paradise Jam title, a win over Lipscomb, a Player of the Week honor and a handful of AP votes, the Gamecocks welcome the Catamounts to Colonial Life Arena tonight. It will be the ninth meeting all-time between the two schools, with USC having won the last seven in a row.
The two programs last met during the 2011-12 season and South Carolina has outscored WCU by an average of 19 points over the last eight meetings. Western Carolina enters the game having lost two in a row, most recently to College of Charleston on Friday by just one point.
Like most opponents the Gamecocks have faced this season, the Catamounts boast a strong backcourt and find pleasure in shooting from deep. Senior guard Mike Brown is the engine to WCU's offense, averaging a team-high 19.2 points per game this season. He earned the Southern Conference's Player of the Week award on Nov. 17 after scoring 23 points vs. Cincinnati and a career-high 29 points vs. UNC-Asheville.
Western Carolina attempts 25.6 three-pointers per game, but they defend the outside shot about as well as they like to shoot it. Their perimeter defense has let opponents hit only 24.7 percent of their three-point attempts this season, a mark that ranks 14th nationally.
Not a worry as South Carolina has been hot from wherever they let it fly over the last week and a half. For three consecutive games, the Gamecocks have shot over 50 percent from the field and finished the game with at least five double-figure scorers. USC has scored at least 83 points in five of their first six games this season. Last season, Frank Martin's team eclipsed the 80-point mark just four times all year.
South Carolina ranks second among SEC teams currently in scoring, using the offensive burst to match their defensive and rebounding style to begin the year 6-0, the program's best start since 2003.