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February 22, 2014

Hoops preview: Georgia

Georgia (14-11, 8-5) at South Carolina (10-16, 3-10)
When: 1:47 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
TV: SECTV
Series: Georgia leads 53-48
Last meeting: Georgia defeated USC 97-76 in Athens on Jan. 22, 2014.

In Columbia with snow on the ground, the Gamecocks are 3-0.

In the Colonial Life Arena with fans encouraged to wear white as part of the marketing department's "Snowstorm with Whiteout Conditions," today, the Gamecocks hope to make it an even four in a row today when they face a Georgia team third overall in the SEC and winners of four straight before Wednesday's loss on the road at Tennessee.

With no snow on the ground a month ago today, Georgia dismantled a listless South Carolina squad to such a degree that head coach Frank Martin called it the low point of his tenure at USC. Preparing for today's game, Martin hasn't forgotten that night.

"No one's talking about Georgia, but if I'm not mistaken I think they're in second-place in the league (now third)," Martin said. "They handled us fairly easily at their place earlier in the season."

Now, Martin hopes to return the favor with a team that's playing with confidence at home, where the Gamecocks have a modest two-game winning streak underway and have won three of their last four.

For the Gamecocks to win, they'll need help not just from the expected contributors - guards Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and Brent Williams - but also points from others whose contributions are less consistent. The good news is that Martin is developing enough depth from a rotation that will go 9, sometimes 10 deep.

"I've always felt a duty, if we recruit people, if they do everything we ask of them and they continue to grow, that I have a responsibility to play guys," Martin said. "How much they play, everyone says 'Let them play through their mistakes.' No, not if they continue to make the same mistake every day. But if somebody grows and stops making mistake 'A', when they make mistake 'B' for the first time, you let them play through that.

"When they do things the right way, I think they deserve a chance to play. When you get into February, it makes your practices more competitive because guys know if they do their part they're going to get a chance. By having depth, then your front line then play 38 minutes a game November, December, maybe early January, so they're not tired and beat up. The way I like to play, pressuring offense and defense, it's hard to play with five or six guys."

To beat the Bulldogs, it'll take more than five or six guys. And it just may take a snowstorm with whiteout conditions.

Three keys to victory

KNOW YOUR ROLE: The game needs role players just as much as stars, and what has helped the Gamecocks of late has been the play of guys like Mindaugas Kacinas who, while no threat to break any scoring records, has performed with energy and effort having while starting the previous three games in a row. It's guys like Kacinas who who can come in and provide a needed commodity - whether it's rebounding or defense or scoring or just plain desire - without worrying about whether they're getting the ball enough or what their stat line looks like.

FEED OFF THE CROWD: When animated, energized and enthused, the crowd at the Colonial Life Arena can be as significant a home-court advantage as any team in the SEC enjoys, and it doesn't have to be anywhere close to being filled to be that. Sure, sizable crowds help, but there hasn't been a more passionate crowd than the scant few thousand who watched USC get its first SEC win over Texas A&M, proving it's the size of the fight in the dog that counts.

LOW POST SCORING: The Gamecocks need some. Over the last five games, Kacinas is averaging 6.2 points, Laimonas Chatkevicius is averaging 4.4 points, Demetrius Henry is averaging 2.4 points, Michael Carrera is averaging 5.4 points and Desmond Ringer hasn't played a single minute in three of the last five games, averaging 1.5 points in the two games he did see action. South Carolina simply has to find some kind of scoring threat in the low post.

Probable starting lineups:

South Carolina
G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 206 Fr. (13.7 ppg, 4.0 rpg)
G - #1 Brent Williams, 5-11, 172 Sr. (14.2 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
G - #10 Duane Notice, 6-2, 221 Fr. (7.7 ppg, 2.8 rpg)
F - #24 Michael Carrera, 6-5, 214 So. (6.7 ppg, 5.2 rpg)
F - #25 Midaugas Kacinas, 6-7, 210 So. (5.1 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Georgia
G - #4 Charles Mann, 6-5, 210 So. (13.5 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
G - #12 Kenny Gaines, 6-3, 195 So. (12.1 ppg, 2.5 rpg)
G - #31 Brandon Morris, 6-7, 215 So. (9.0 ppg, 3.6 rpg)
F - #2 Marcus Thornton, 6-8, 235 R-Jr. (7.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
F - #15 Donte Williams, 6-9, 215 Sr. (5.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Next game: South Carolina travels to Auburn Wednesday for a 9 p.m. ET tipoff.



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