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February 1, 2014
Hoops preview: Ole Miss
South Carolina (8-12, 1-6) at Ole Miss (14-6, 5-2)
When: 1:47 p.m.
Where: C.M. "Tad" Smith Coliseum (8,867)
TV: SEC TV/ESPN3
Series: Ole Miss leads 16-15
Last meeting: Ole Miss defeated USC 75-74 in Columbia on Jan. 18.
We've seen the Gamecocks handle adversity, and the marks are good - persevere, overcome and achieve your goal of winning a Southeastern Conference game.
Now, we'll see how the Gamecocks handle success.
Coming off a colossal drubbing of a Texas A&M team that was outplayed almost the entire 40 minutes in an 80-52 Gamecock victory, South Carolina has a shot at revenge against a team it lost to by just a single point at home two weeks ago today.
USC head coach Frank Martin has said he loves playing a team again that's beaten him once, because he's hungrier and more knowledgeable about precisely what they do. His first opportunity to show that this year came on Wednesday when the Gamecocks looked like an entirely different team than they had all year, and the same opportunity awaits for this team to again accomplish something for the first time this year - win a conference road game.
For the Gamecocks to prevail, Martin needs a strong game from his inside players, including Michael Carrera, who has come on of late with a double-double at Missouri and 9 points and 7 rebounds in the won over Texas A&M.
"Carrera just had 11 rebounds (at Missouri), so obviously he's responded," Martin said. "And that's on the heels of a game he had six or seven (Georgia). So he's starting to give us some of that (rebounding) that we expect from him. He's shown he can do it in the past, we just need him to do it again."
While Laimonas Chatkevicius tied a career-high in points against Texas A&M with 12, his two defensive rebounds remain a concern, as does the single defensive rebound Wednesday from Demetrius Henry, who has six defensive rebounds total in seven conference games, and zero from Mindaugas Kacinas. Martin said he expects more from them and from his guards, specifically Sindarius Thornwell.
"We need Mindaugas, we need Demetrius," Martin said. "They've got to do a better job rebounding. My challenge to Sindarius is he's a big, strong guard. Big, strong guards rebound the basketball. He doesn't do that as well as he needs to."
Three keys to victory
PLAY HUNGRY: It's kind of hard to imagine it, but guarding against overconfidence after a blowout win is always something coaches concern themselves with. Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said South Carolina played desperate against his team, and the Gamecocks need to continue to play with that edge, that hunger, that willingness to do anything it takes to win.
BUILD CONFIDENCE: For almost the entire Texas A&M game, the Gamecocks played as crisp as they have offensively all season, executing passes and screens with precision and intensity. That led to good ball movement, which led to defenders off balance, which led to good shots, which Martin characterizes as a shot in rhythm you can make. Brent Williams and Sindarius Thornwell are doing their part scoring between 15 and 20 a game, and with a rapidly improving Duane Notice and occasional inside threat, the Gamecocks are finding an identity offensively for the first time all year.
PRESSURE THE BALL: In USC's losses to Ole Miss and Georgia, Martin was incensed at his team's inability to pressure the ball-handler. Against the Aggies, South Carolina did a much better job of aggressively harassing the ball, contesting passes and bothering the point guard with length and activity. If the Gamecocks can maintain that intensity on defense, they'll have a good shot at slowing down the Rebels' offensive game and generating some transition offense of their own.
Probable starting lineups:
Next game: South Carolina hosts Auburn Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
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