GAME NOTES: A pair of struggling SEC teams meet up at Auburn Arena on Wednesday night, as the Auburn Tigers play host to the South Carolina Gamecocks.
South Carolina has lost back-to-back games on the heels of a two-game winning streak, having lost at Arkansas last Wednesday (71-64) before dropping a 73-56 decision at home to Georgia on Saturday. The Gamecocks own just a 10-17 record this season and are tied for last place in the SEC with Mississippi State at 3-11. They have also been dreadful on the road, registering 10 losses without a win.
Auburn has also been on the downswing of late with setbacks in four of its last five contests, most recently losing a home contest to Vanderbilt on Saturday, 67-59, to dip to 12-13 overall and 4-10 in league play. The Tigers are typically impressive on their home floor however, having gone 11-5 at Auburn Arena.
The Tigers own a 21-14 advantage in the all-time series with the Gamecocks, which includes a 79-74 victory in Columbia back on Feb. 5.
Although the Gamecocks went into their most recent contest with Georgia tied at the half, they quickly lost control in the second stanza en route to the 17-point defeat, as they shot a lowly 26.3 percent from the field, including a dreadful 5-of-31 (.161) over the final 20 minutes. Sindarius Thornwell was only 4-of-15 from the floor but knocked down 10-of-12 at the free-throw line for 18 points. Brenton Williams made 4-of-9 from 3-point range on his way to 16 points and Michael Carrera hauled in 12 rebounds.
On the season, South Carolina ranks near the bottom of the SEC in both scoring offense (69.4 ppg) and scoring defense (70.7 ppg), although both its 3-point percentage (.371) and free-throw percentage (.702) have been better than average. Williams paces the squad with 14.3 ppg, having knocked down 72 3- pointers at a 42.9 percent clip while also ranking as the nation's top free- throw shooter (.964). Thornwell brings 13.8 ppg to the table but does so on less than 40 percent shooting from the field.
The Tigers appeared to have their latest tilt well in hand leading by 10 early in the second half, but they promptly fell apart following a 15-0 run by Vanderbilt and could never recover down the stretch. The team shot only 33.9 percent from the field on the afternoon, including a meager 4-of-24 from 3- point range. Chris Denson and KT Harrell both scored 13 points but combined to make just 7-of-30 from the field. Allen Payne and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum finished with identical 11-point, nine-rebound lines.
Scoring points has rarely been a problem for Auburn this season, as it shoots 44.5 percent from the field for 73.0 ppg, but its downfall has come in allowing its opponents to net nearly as many points on the opposite end of the court (71.8 ppg). Denson paces the squad with 20.3 ppg on 47.6 percent efficiency from the field, but while he gets to the foul line often, his percentage has not been strong (156-of-235, .664). Harrell (18.7 ppg) is an excellent second option and has been much more efficient at the line (114- of-133, .857), while Tahj Shamsid-Deen brings 9.6 ppg to the table.
Neither team has been a model of consistency this season, but with Auburn playing well at home and South Carolina having yet to win on the road, expect the Tigers to take care of business in this one.
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