Manhattan (7-2) at South Carolina (2-3)
When: 7:00 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Series USC leads 6-2. The last meeting was a 63-57 South Carolina win on Dec. 22 of last year at the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.
Last year, USC defeated a Manhattan team in December that was a blown call in March away from making the NCAA Tournament
The difference between last year's Jaspers and this year's?
"When we beat them, they played real hard (but) they were struggling," Gamecock men's basketball coach Frank Martin said. "But as the year went on they started winning. They learned to play without (leading scorer George) Beamon last year when he got hurt.
"They lost in the conference championship on a bad call. It was a complete mess-up by the official. If not (for that), that's an NCAA team last year.
Now you add Beamon's 20 points per game as a fifth-year senior along with the other seniors, and you end up with a good basketball team, which is what they are."
The Jaspers haven't lost a game so far this year under third-year coach Steve Masiello and certainly have Martin's attention and respect.
"Mas(iello) gets them to play," Martin said. "They compete. They play their tails off. They guard you. They run. They rebound. They have a presence at the rim. They have a big-time scorer on the perimeter. They have a shooter. They have a point guard. They're balanced.
"That's the kind of team that's going to create a lot of problems for a lot of people."
One weapon the Gamecocks will have to create problems of their own is Bruce Ellington, who will play tonight, practice with the football team and play Thursday night against USC-Upstate, Martin said.
"(Bruce is) phenomenal," Martin said. "He's been at practice now for two weeks, and watching him practice you'd have thought he's been practicing for two months and some guys have been practicing for two weeks.
"That's how in tune and how competitive and how ready to go he is right now. He's special. He's got the world in his hands not because he's lucky but because of who he is. If he stays on the road he's on right now, Bruce has a lot of success in his future."
That future is possible in part by football coach Steve Spurrier's remarkable willingess to share Ellington with the basketball team he originally lured him from
"Coach Spurrier is the best," Martin said. "How he allows his leading receiver to play in basketball games right now as they prepare for the biggest game that this school has ever had, because, like he said, every time they win a game, it's another record.
"So that makes this the biggest game they've ever played. I can't think of too many other football coaches in the country that would allow their leading receiver to play. It says a lot about who he is as a human being."
Three keys to victory
LET BRUCE LEE-AD: With Ellington hooping it up this week (along with graduating early, by the way), give him meaningful minutes so you know what he's ready to do so you can plan for how the offense will run when he makes his full-time return after the January bowl game.
MOVE: As in, don't stand around, something the Gamecocks did too much of in Stillwater, OK, as the Cowboys raced past them in the opening minutes and never looked back. Let high-energy guys like Jaylen Shaw provide the needed spark from the bench and win the energy battle against an experienced, veteran team that won't be rattled by its surroundings.
UNLEASH THE BEAST: I said this last week against Oklahoma State and it didn't work, so I'm going to try it again - Michael Carrera needs to establish himself inside defensively and outside offensively to give the Gamecocks a mid-range scoring threat to offset their shooters (Brent Williams, Sindarius Thornwell and Shaw) and inside scorers (Demetrius Henry and Mindaugas Kacinas).
Probable starting lineups:
G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5 206 Fr. (11.8 ppg, 3.2 rpg)
G - #4 Tyrone Johnson, 6-3 194 Jr. (12.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
F - #24 Michael Carrera, 6-5 214 So. (6.6 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9 215 Fr. (8.4 ppg, 5.6 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7 210 So. (7.6 ppg, 8.4 rpg)
G - #12 RaShawn Stores, 5-11 190 Jr. (3.8 ppg, 1.3 rpg)
G - #24 George Beamon, 6-4 175 Sr. (20.7 ppg, 7.3 rpg)
G - #31 Michael Alvarado, 6-2 180 Sr. (11.0 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
F - #23 Rich Williams, 6-5 190 Fr. (2.7 ppg., 1.9 rpg)
F - #5 Rhamel Brown, 6-7 230 Sr. (9.8 ppg, 6.6 rpg)
Next game: USC faces USC-Upstate on Dec. 19 at 4 p.m.