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December 23, 2013

Hoops preview: Boise State

Boise State (9-2) v. South Carolina (3-5)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)
TV: ESPN2 Series First meeting.

When you've lost three-straight, any win is a good win.

When that win is over a previously unbeaten team that's 9-0 and receiving votes for the Top 25, a good win becomes a great win.

Such was the case late Sunday night/early Monday morning for South Carolina (3-5), which defeated Saint Mary's 78-71 behind 16 points from junior Ty Johnson in the first round of the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Had Classic in Honolulu, Hawaii.

The win moves the Gamecocks forward in the winner's bracket to face Boise State, which beat host Hawaii 62-61 Sunday. The winner moves to the championship game to face the winner of the Iowa State-Akron game.

Three keys to victory

BOOST JOHNSON: If this tournament can produce a confident, steady Ty Johnson, then it will more than have delivered for the Gamecocks despite how the team finishes. As the point guard, as the man running the show for Frank Martin for the next two years, as Johnson goes, so go the Gamecocks. If you don't believe me, check this: In last night's win, he was 6-of-9 from the field. In the two Gamecock wins before that, he was 11-of-19 (.579) from the floor. In the team's five losses, he's 12-of-41 (.291). As he shoots, so fares USC.

STAY OUT OF TROUBLE: It's clear that teams have figured out that it you bang the Gamecocks inside and get their bigs in foul trouble, they struggle. That happened against Manhattan and USC Upstate, and Saint Mary's employed the same tactic. The only difference was that, to everyone's surprise, Laimonas Chatkevicius responded with his best game of the season, scoring a career-high 12 points to go with seven rebounds. The Gamecocks can't count on that every night from Chatkevicius, meaning Demetrius Henry and Mindaugas Kacinas need to be careful with their fouls.

STAY IN THE ZONE: Against the Gaels, South Carolina found its shooting touch to the tune of a season-best 58.3 percent from the floor (28-of-48). That touch was sorely missed last week in losses to Manhattan and USC Upstate, especially against the Spartans on Thursday when the Gamecocks shot a season-low 33.3 percent from the floor on 23-of-69 shooting. Probable starting lineups:

South Carolina G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5 206 Fr. (13.5 ppg, 4.1 rpg)
G - #4 Tyrone Johnson, 6-3 194 Jr. (12.5 ppg, 2.6 rpg)
G - #10 Duane Notice, 6-2, 221 Fr. (3.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9 215 Fr. (7.0 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7 210 So. (7.0 ppg, 7.1 rpg)

Boise State G - #11 Jeff Eloriaga, 6-2 201 Sr. (12.9 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
G - #2 Derrick Marks, 6-3 204 Jr. (17.7 ppg, 4.3 rpg)
G - #12 Igor Hadziomerovic, 6-4 207 Jr. (6.6 ppg, 4.4 rpg)
F - #0 Ryan Watkins, 6-9 242 Sr. (10.1 ppg., 9.7 rpg)
F - #3 Anthony Drmic, 6-6 192 Jr. (18.6 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Next game: Depending on results, South Carolina will go to the championship game to take place Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. or the third-place game at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.



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