GAME NOTES: The second round of the SEC Tournament continues on Thursday afternoon when the fifth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks take on the 13th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks at the Georgia Dome.
Awaiting the winner of this matchup in Friday's quarterfinals is fourth-seeded Tennessee.
South Carolina opened up tournament action with a convincing 74-56 victory over Auburn in the first round on Wednesday. It was the Gamecocks' third win in their last four games, moving to 13-19 on the season.
Arkansas had a chance to earn a top-four seed and a double bye into the quarterfinals prior to its loss in the regular-season finale at Alabama (83-58), thus snapping a six-game winning streak. The Razorbacks are still an impressive 21-10 this season and finished 10-8 in the league. They are considered a strong candidate for an at-large selection to the NCAA Tournament.
In the only meeting during the regular season, Arkansas downed South Carolina in Fayetteville on Feb. 19, 71-64, to improve its standing in the all-time series to 15-11.
The Gamecocks carried a comfortable 12-point lead into the half of their most recent game and their advantage never dipped to single digits for the rest of the contest, as they shot a lights-out 11-of-15 from 3-point range. Duane Notice was especially deadly from beyond the arc (4-of-4) on his way to a career-high 23 points. Brenton Williams also drained four long-range buckets for 16 points, Laimonas Chatkevicius and Sindarius Thornwell netted 11 and 10 points, respectively, while Mindaugas Kacinas rounded out the balanced effort with eight points and 10 boards.
On the season, South Carolina puts up fewer points per game (68.9 ppg) than it allows (70.2 ppg). Williams has knocked down 91 3-pointers at greater than 43 percent efficiency for a team-high 15.2 ppg, and his free-throw percentage (.948) is the nation's best. Thornwell earned a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team with 13.4 ppg.
The Razorbacks finished up the regular season with arguably their worst all- around performance of the season, as they were outshot from the floor in the 25-point setback, 54.7 percent to 31.3 percent, and were outrebounded by a 41-25 margin. Rashad Madden was on point from 3-point range (5-of-9) on his way to 19 points but also hurt the squad with seven turnovers. Bobby Portis added 17 points to the losing effort.
Arkansas has the SEC's top scoring offense this season at 80.6 ppg and possess a deep bench with 12 players averaging at least 2.9 ppg. Madden (12.7 ppg), Portis (12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Michael Qualls (11.8 ppg) and Coty Clarke (9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg) are the most consistent performers. The team's scoring defense hasn't been great, yielding 71.2 ppg, but it allows opponents to shoot just 40.7 percent from the field and its turnover margin (+5.5) rank fourth best in the nation.
South Carolina is playing its best basketball of the season right now and Arkansas has not been a great team away from its home arena (5-8 in combined road and neutral-court bouts). Still, the fact remains that the Razorbacks are the more talented team and should be able to outscore the Gamecocks en route to victory.
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