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February 19, 2014
Hoops preview: Arkansas
South Carolina (10-15, 3-9) at Arkansas (16-9, 5-7)
When: 9 p.m.
Where: Bud Walton Arena (19,200)
Series: Arkansas leads 14-11
Last meeting: South Carolina defeated Arkansas 75-54 in Columbia on Jan. 26, 2013.
When you're on a roll, you can't wait to play.
For South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, whose Gamecocks are on a two-game winning streak, tonight's game in Fayetteville, Arkansas, is big for another reason.
"I'm excited about coaching a game in Arkansas,one of the great home court environments in the country," Martin said. "It's a first for me, it's a first for the guys on our team. We're excited about going in there and playing a very good Arkansas team, a team that at home plays as well as anyone in the country. It's a heck of a challenge, but one that's going to make us a better team."
Martin said the two-game winning streak is nice, but his mentality as a coach is to get neither too low nor too high and have a short memory. The attention, always, is on the next practice, the next opponent.
"I don't coach based on our record, I coach based on who we are," Martin said. "Our team, with so many young kids, that's been the one exciting thing for me is that they've continued that they continue to come in every day and want to work and want to compete.
Now that we've won a couple of games, the mood won't change. It's still going to be positive. We're still going to be excited. Hopefully it just continues to reinforce in them the things that we're doing and preaching and the things that they're buying into. The better we do that, the better we'll get as a team."
Even with freshman Sindarius Thornwell having picked up the SEC Freshman of the Week and the national Wayman Tisdale Freshman of the Week honors, Martin knows his team will have its hands full tonight with the Razorbacks, who are 13-2 at home this season.
"You can go into Arkansas with the Lakers and you need a great night to try and figure out a way to win," Martin said. "I have much respect for Mike (Anderson) and the way his teams play. It's going to be extremely hard for our guys, but you have to be extremely excited about those challenges.
"If you're not excited about the opportunity, the possibility of going in there and doing everything you can to figure out a way to win, if you're not excited about that then you're never going to be any good as a competitor. Is it a hard challenge? Absolutely. But we're excited about it and we're gong to do everything we can to figure out a way to score one more point than Arkansas."
Three keys to victory
DON'T OVERTHINK THINGS: When things are going right, it's easy to want to try to explain all the reasons, but keeping things simple - execution, effort, intensity - is really what competition boils down to. Prepare like a winner with attention to detail, then play with a sense of urgency that makes every possession count. South Carolina has won its past two games by playing better basketball than Vanderbilt and Alabama in nearly every facet of the game. Go do it again.
HAVE FUN: For the first time since s four-game winning streak just prior to the beginning of conference play, South Carolina is having fun again. The gloom-and-doomers, the naysayers, the casual observers who only read headlines and have no clue what this team is about have faded into the woodwork for the past week. Keep them there by enjoying this momentum surge, this inspired play, this fun. Sports are fun. Winning is fun. Celebrating the accomplishments of young men growing and improving in front of your eyes is fun. Enjoy the experience of taking confidence into a road game and have fun playing the game.
PLUG BRENT IN: After a four-game stretch when he scored 32, 18, 23 and 29 points, an average of 25.5 points per game, Brent Williams has scored 8, 14 and 10 over the past three (10.6). That's a significant drop of 15 points per game, and of course the odd thing is the Gamecocks have won the previous two. Having a plugged-in Brent Williams allows so much more freedom for South Carolina's backcourt and frontcourt, because when he's on, only maybe Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson is a better shooter. And that's a big maybe.
Probable starting lineups:
Next game: South Carolina hosts Georgia on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. ET. The university is promoting a "Snowstorm with Whiteout Conditions" and encouraging fans to wear white to the game since the Gamecocks are 3-0 this season with snow on the ground in Columbia.
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