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Game preview: South Carolina men face top-10 challenge in Auburn; Holden leaves team

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The Gamecocks will try to stop a six-game slide against the Tigers without a member of their backcourt.

Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina (13-13, 4-9 SEC) vs. No. 10 Auburn (23-3, 11-2)

Start time: 3:30 p.m.

TV: SEC Network

Live stream: watchespn.com

Last game

The Gamecocks dropped their sixth straight game in another close one to then-No. 18 Tennessee, falling 70-67 in Knoxville. Frank Booker led the Gamecocks with 19 points, and Chris Silva and Hassani Gravett added 12 each. While it was disappointing to see an upset bid come up empty, this was the first time in a couple weeks that South Carolina played inspired basketball. We’ll see if that carries over.

What to watch for

About an hour before the game, USC announced that transfer guard Kory Holden, who had been struggling with injuries upon his arrival to Columbia, is leaving the Gamecocks. Holden, who averaged roughly 17 points per game with Delaware, was viewed as a key offseason addition, but knee surgery and nagging injuries prevented him from seeing much time on the floor. Functionally, this doesn’t change a whole lot about the Gamecocks’ backcourt depth and rotation, but it’s certainly a shame that Holden could never quite get healthy.

Auburn is enjoying an incredible season so far under coach Bruce Pearl, sitting atop the SEC standings with its only league losses to rival Alabama and Texas A&M (like the Gamecocks, the Tigers also lost to Temple in the non-con portion of their schedule). Auburn also ranks first in the SEC in scoring offense (85.1 points per game), scoring margin (+12.9), free throw percentage (78.1%) and steals (7.5).

Four players average double figures for the Tigers, led by Bryce Brown’s 16.6 points per game. Mustapha Heron (16.1), Jared Harper (13.5) and Desean Murray (10.9) round out the group.

The Tigers are coming off a winning week, having taken down Vanderbilt 93-81 and Ole Miss 79-70. Suffice to say, this is a tall task for the Gamecocks, and they’re unlikely to stop their six-game slide against the Tigers today.