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January 11, 2014

Hoops preview: LSU

LSU (9-4, 0-1) at South Carolina (7-7, 0-1)
When: 1:47 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
TV: SEC TV/ESPN3/Watch ESPN Series USC leads 15-13
Last meeting: LSU defeated South Carolina 64-46 on Feb. 14, 2013, in Columbia.

It's no secret that freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell is in a bit of a slump.

Over his past six games he's scored one point (Boise State), three points (Marshall) and eight points against Akron and S.C. State and has broken double figures just twice, with 12 against Akron in Hawaii and 10 against Florida - though four of those points came with just nine seconds left in the game.

In that span he's averaging 7 points, almost half of his season scoring average before that span of 13.5, and struggling with foul trouble and turnovers.

In short, he's being a freshman.

"Sindarius has been good," Martin said. "He's starting to understand that college basketball might be harder than anyone ever told him about before. And he's not the only freshman in the country who's going through that.

"In our culture on grassroots basketball kids are made to think that college basketball is a little easier than it really is, When they show up and realize the burden of responsibility that's on their shoulders socially, academically, community service standpoint, in the weight room, on the court every day not just when there's a good opponent on the line, they tend to get bogged down a little bit. And I think Sin's kinda dealing with that a little bit."

Martin said while Thornwell has had a rough patch here of late, he's more than happy to work through it.

"When we were struggling, he held us together," Martin said. "Now he's been OK but struggling with when he makes a mistake, he's allowing that to impact him because he wants to do better. His teammates have to help him now, because I know when we were struggling, he was a guy that gave us life to stay in the moment and we have to, coaches and players, do a better job of helping him right now."

How far that process has come will play out this afternoon with LSU coming to Columbia and both teams looking to earn their first conference win.

Three keys to victory

PROTECT THE PAINT: Last year in Columbia, LSU forward Johnny O'Bryant III (6-9, 256) dominated the Gamecocks inside, scoring a whopping 30 points and collecting 10 rebounds. USC had no answer for the LSU behemoth last year, but this year sports a bit more fight in the person of Demetrius Henry to go along with a more seasoned Mindaugas Kacinas. On Wednesday in Gainesville, Florida big man Patric Young was held to 13 points and seven rebounds, so that was encouraging. If the Gamecocks can hold O'Bryant to similar numbers, they stand a great shot of getting their first conference win.

FEED SINDARIUS: With Thornwell's scoring down, he needs confidence in his shot, and confidence in one's shot comes from shooting the basketball. In Gainesville, Thornwell missed a couple of early attempts and got cautious the rest of the way, with some costly turnovers adversely affecting his impact on the game, which was minimal. With SEC play in full swing, Thornwell needs to find a rhythm he can sustain, and that only comes from shooting, shooting, shooting.

SHAW'S SPARK: Jaylen Shaw's role this season has been a spark plug. A non-factor in the first three games, Shaw came on strong in back-to-back games against Florida International and Oklahoma State when he scored 16 and 13 points, respectively while averaging 23 minutes of playing time. Since then, he's averaged just 6.5 minutes per game and his scoring average has sunk to 3.3 from a previous high of 7.8. For South Carolina to play to its full potential, it needs the ability to get a spark from Shaw off the bench when starters Ty Johnson, Duane Notice and Thornwell are struggling.

Probable starting lineups:

South Carolina G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 206 Fr. (10.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
G - #1 Brent Williams, 5-11, 172 Sr. (11.1 ppg., 1.7 rpg.)
G - #10 Duane Notice, 6-2, 221 Fr. (6.8 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9, 215 Fr. (6.7 ppg, 4.9 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7, 210 So. (6.0 ppg, 5.7 rpg)

LSU G - #10 Andre Stringer, 5-10, 190 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
G - #1 Anthony Hickey, 5-11, 182 Jr. (9.1 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
F - #2 Johnny O-Bryant III, 6-9, 256 Jr. (14.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg)
F - #12 Jarrell Martin, 6-9, 241 Fr. (7.7 ppg., 3.5 rpg)
F - #25 Jordan Mickey, 6-9, 240 Sr. (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg)

Next game: South Carolina goes on the road to face Txas A&M in College Station, Tecas, on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.



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