Appalachian State (2-7) at South Carolina (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, December 19, 5 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Colonial Life Arena (18,000) -- Columbia, South Carolina. Television: FSN-S. Home Record: ASU 1-2, USC 4-2. Away Record: ASU 1-5, USC 0-1. Neutral Record: ASU 0-0, USC 2-0. Conference Record: ASU 0-1, USC 0-0. Series Record: South Carolina leads, 3-0.
GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks will close out a three-game homestand on Wednesday night when they do battle with the Appalachian State Mountaineers at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
Appalachian State won its first game and its latest game, with a seven-game losing streak sandwiched in between. The Mountaineers snapped their skid on Sunday with an 81-71 win at UMKC. The victory also ended a seven-game road losing streak, which dated back to last season.
After winning just 10 games a season ago, South Carolina has seen a marked improvement under first-year head coach Frank Martin. It has won six of its first nine games, highlighted by a pair of wins in the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico against Missouri State (74-67 in OT) and Arkansas- Little Rock (74-62). The Gamecocks recently dropped back-to-back tough games against St. John's (89-65) and Clemson (64-55), but they were able to bounce back in their latest game, defeating Jacksonville on Dec. 7, 91-74.
South Carolina has won all three previous meetings in the series versus Appalachian State, most recently claiming a 91-57 decision in December of 2004.
The Mountaineers have been formidable at the offensive end of the court this season, shooting 43.8 percent from the field in averaging 72.6 ppg, but their biggest issue has been their porous defense, which allows more than 77 ppg on 49.1 percent field goal efficiency. Luckily for Appalachian State, it was able to out-shoot its opponent in its latest outing, making a lofty 55.3 percent of its field goal attempts and 76.7 percent of its free throws (23-of-30) on its way to the 10-point victory. Tevin Baskin came off the bench to score a team- high 18 points, and Jamaal Trice connected on 4-of-5 shots from 3-point range en route to 16 points. Tab Hamilton (17 points) was perfect on eight free throws, and Jay Canty (12 points) grabbed a team-high six rebounds. Canty has been the unit's strongest performer through the first nine games, as he puts up 17.9 ppg, 6.4 rpg and 3.2 apg. Nathan Healy drains better than 55 percent of his field goal attempts for 13.2 ppg, while Hamilton (12.3 ppg) has made good on 19-of-42 from beyond the arc (.452).
South Carolina's play at the defensive end hasn't been great, as it allows more than 71 ppg, but it has been able to win two-thirds of its contests behind 46.4 percent shooting and a scoring average of 74.3 ppg. It also benefits from holding a huge advantage on the boards, outrebounding opponents by more than 10 rpg. The Gamecocks had their most potent scoring effort of the season in 17-point victory over Jacksonville, making 55.4 percent of their field goal attempts, including 10-of-16 from 3-point range. Michael Carrera tallied 17 points and nine rebounds, while Brian Richardson drilled all four of his 3-point tries on his way to 16 points. Brenton Williams and Bruce Ellington put up 12 points apiece in the triumph, and Eric Smith added seven points and seven assists. USC is used to getting a balanced effort, as four players are averaging in double figures. Williams (13.2 ppg) has outstanding percentages from the field (.551), 3-point range (.471) and the foul line (.900). LaShay Page adds 12.3 ppg, and Carrera has been solid in the low post with 11.3 ppg and 8.0 rpg. Bruce Ellington has returned to the floor following the conclusion of football season, logging 10.3 ppg in three contests.
Coach Martin has his team playing with a new energy this season, and while South Carolina isn't yet a threat to the big guns in the SEC, it can certainly play well enough to defeat underachieving non-conference foes on its home floor.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 87, Appalachian State 73
12/19 10:40:17 ET