Fresh off a breakthrough win against the Georgia Bulldogs, our Gamecocks traveled to Bud Walton Arena to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks earlier this week. In-and-out of the top 25 all season, the Razorbacks were the superior team against the undermanned Gamecocks. In their 75-55 loss, South Carolina was down to just eight scholarship players after Justin McKie and Demetrius Henry missed their third straight game due to concussions suffered in practice. Freshman wing Shamiek Sheppard also missed the Tuesday matchup after having a procedure on his right knee to remove fluid.
As the weekend hits South Carolina travels to Nashville, TN for the first time since March of 2013. The Vanderbilt Commodores await the Gamecocks after their 67-61 win over Florida in a Tuesday night game of their own. Vandy (12-10, 2-7) looked like the SEC's surprise team through nonconference play but the momentum stopped once SEC games started. Their win Tuesday night snapped a seven-game losing streak with their last win coming in the league opener against Auburn.
The 'Dores are paced by two starters who average double-figures, sophomore center Damian Jones and freshman guard Riley LaChance. Jones ranks eighth in the SEC in scoring, averaging 15.1 points per game. LaChance adds 12.5 points per game to help lead Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks have often been troubled by poor shooting performances this season, like Tuesday night vs. Arkansas (27 percent) for example. Shooting is one of Vandy's strengths. They lead the SEC in field goal percentage (.469) and 3-point field goal percentage (.371). Their field goal percentage mark ranks 41st nationally.
The Vandy offense will be a good test for a South Carolina defense which ranks third in the SEC in scoring defense, allowing opponents to score just 61.1 points per game.
The defense will be there but the question, as it always is, will be what kind of offense the Gamecocks can produce. Freshman guard Marcus Stroman is coming off the best game of his early career statistically, a 10 point, six assist performance Tuesday night. The Gamecocks should hope to be paced by sophomore Sindarius Thornwell like they were last season against the 'Dores.
As a freshman, Thornwell provided 19 points and six rebounds for South Carolina as they beat Vanderbilt 65-59 in the last meeting between the two schools. In that same game, the Gamecocks pulled down 26 offensive rebounds, resulting in 23 second-chance points. Michael Carrera and Mindaguas Kacinas have been cleaning the boards over the last five games, a good sign as the 'Dores are vulnerable in that department.
Last year's win in Columbia snapped a five-game losing streak for South Carolina against Vanderbilt but they haven't won in Nashville at Memorial Gymnasium since a 77-73 win in March of 2010. The game tips off at 4pm ET on FSN where Pete Pranica and Sean Tuohy have the call.