Start time: 6:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network
Live Stream: WatchESPN
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia
The South Carolina Gamecocks host the Alabama Crimson Tide tonight as the Gamecocks play their first game from atop the SEC standings. In head coach Avery Johnson’s second season, the Tide sit at 13-9 (6-4) after dropping back-to-back games against Arkansas and Auburn. This could be a low-scoring affair as Alabama owns the second best defense in the SEC, trailing only South Carolina.
Last time out, the Gamecocks completed the season sweep of Georgia, knocking off the Bulldogs 77-75. In the win, P.J. Dozier scored 20 points or more for the first time since scoring 24 in the SEC opener against Georgia. Sindarius Thornwell scored 18 while Duane Notice scored 15, giving him double figures for back-to-back games. Carolina hit 11 three pointers in the win. The three-point shot could be the key to unlock Alabama’s stingy half-court defense.
The Crimson Tide were beginning to flirt with the bubble heading into last week. They were in sole possession of fourth place in the SEC at 6-2 before travelling to Arkansas last Wednesday. The Tide were blown out 87-68 in Fayetteville with the Razorbacks shooting 11-23 from beyond the arc. It was more of the same at the weekend as the Tide was swept by rival Auburn for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. In Auburn’s 82-77 win at Coleman Coliseum, the Tigers shot an incredible 15-27 from three.
Alabama is led by freshman forward Braxton Key. Key enters the contest scoring 12.1 points per game. Redshirt-freshman guard Dazon Ingram is the only other Tide player in double figures, averaging 10.2 points per game. The rest of the squad has been marred by in-consistency. Most notably, Junior Riley Norris (8.9) and Graduate-transfer Corban Collins (7.9) both average under double figures, but they have both have had many double figure games and even a 20 point game in SEC play. Gamecock fans will remember Norris after last season when he scored a career high 27 points to give USC their first loss of the 2015-2016 season in Tuscaloosa. The Tide also are a good rebounding team. They lead the SEC in rebounding margin at +6.5 and offensive rebounds at 12.7 per game. Key (6) leads the team while big-men Bola Olaniyan (5.7) and Donta Hall (5.6) both average more than five rebounds a game while coming off of the bench.
A big key to the matchup will be South Carolina’s bigs. With Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar in regular foul trouble, the Gamecocks need the pair to stay on the floor to contest Alabama’s rebounding ability. Aside from that, the Gamecocks just need to put points on the board. Alabama is 12-0 when giving up 62 points or less, but the Tide are 1-9 when giving up more than 62.