LSU (9-4) at South Carolina (7-7)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 11, 1:30 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Colonial Life Arena (18,000) -- Columbia, South Carolina. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: LSU 6-2, South Carolina 5-2. Away Record: LSU 1-1, South Carolina 0-4. Neutral Record: LSU 2-1, South Carolina 2-1. Conference Record: LSU 0-1, South Carolina 0-1. Series Record: South Carolina leads, 15-13.
GAME NOTES: Both the LSU Tigers and the South Carolina Gamecocks will try for their first SEC victory of the season on Saturday afternoon when the teams square off at Colonial Life Arena.
LSU had won a season-high five straight games prior to its current two-game losing skid, with its most recent setback coming in its SEC opener versus Tennessee on Tuesday, 68-50. The Tigers are still in the midst of a solid season overall at 9-4.
South Carolina also got its league schedule off on a sour note, falling on the wrong end of a 74-58 decision at nationally-ranked Florida on Wednesday. The difficult loss snapped a four-game winning streak for the Gamecocks, who are 7-7 this season, including 5-2 on their home floor.
The Gamecocks hold a slim 15-13 advantage in the all-time series with LSU. The squads split the series in 2012-13, with the road team winning both matchups.
The Tigers had by far their worst offensive performance of the season in their 18-point loss to Tennessee earlier in the week, as they shot less than 37 percent from the field (including 2-of-14 from 3-point range) and was just 4- of-7 from the free-throw line. Overcoming the struggles of most of his teammates was Jordan Mickey, who shot 7-of-10 from the field for 14 points while also helping out on the defensive end of the floor with five blocks. Johnny O'Bryant III was also solid in the frontcourt with 11 points, seven rebounds and three blocks.
LSU's latest performance was definitely an exception rather than the rule, as it shoots 45.2 percent from the field this season for 75.8 ppg while also playing stout defense (.381, 67.3 ppg). The team's strength is clearly at forward, where O'Bryant III (14.5 ppg, 7.5 rpg) and Mickey (13.9 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 3.7 bpg) have shined, each shooting greater than 52 percent from the floor. Andre Stringer (11.5 ppg) and Anthony Hickey (9.1 ppg, 2.4 spg) are impressive contributors on the perimeter.
The Gamecocks were no match for the mighty Gators on the road in their most recent matchup, as they were outshot from the field, 57.8 percent to 43.9 percent, and committed 21 turnovers en route to the 16-point defeat. Tyrone Johnson paced the effort off the bench with 12 points and six rebounds, although he was a disappointing 3-of-10 from the field. Sindarius Thornwell and Brenton Williams each contributed 10 points and three steals to the lackluster effort.
Luckily, South Carolina doesn't have to play the stout Florida defense every night, and on the season its field-goal percentage (.434) and points per game (70.4 ppg) is just barely able to outpace its opponents (.422, 68.6). It also helps its cause with a +3.9 rebounding margin. Johnson leads the team with 11.7 ppg thanks in large part to his active nature from the free-throw line (61-of-81). Williams (11.1 ppg) hasn't made as many trips to the line as Johnson, but has remarkably yet to miss an attempt (30-of-30). Thornwell (10.7 ppg) rounds out the double-digit scorers, while five others net between 5.7 and 6.8 ppg.
While LSU has been the more impressive team this season, it has fallen flat in its most recent contests, and heading into Colonial Life Arena will be no walk in the park. South Carolina has played well on its home floor and will have a great chance to knock off the Tigers if it can cut back on its turnovers.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 71, LSU 70
01/11 11:38:50 ET