South Carolina (4-1) vs. Arkansas-Little Rock (4-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, November 25, 9:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Puerto Vallarta Convention Center (300) -- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Television: None. Home Record: South Carolina 3-1, UALR 3-0. Away Record: South Carolina 0-2, UALR 0-0. Neutral Record: South Carolina 1-0, UALR 1-0. Conference Record: South Carolina 0-0, UALR 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: After surviving Saturday's semifinal round, the South Carolina Gamecocks and the Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans meet in the championship game of the Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
The Frank Martin-era in South Carolina has gotten off to a solid start, as the Gamecocks won their first three games before slipping up at home against Elon on Nov. 21 (65-53). However, they managed to bounce back nicely in their matchup with Missouri on Saturday, hitting a three-pointer at the buzzer to force overtime before claiming a 74-67 win.
After losing back-to-back road games against Louisiana Tech (59-43) and Jacksonville (78-56), UALR has recovered nicely with three straight wins in the tournament to advance to the finals. On Saturday, the Trojans upset the undefeated SMU Mustangs, 69-56.
This game marks the first-ever meeting between USC and UALR in men's basketball.
The Michael Carrera three-pointer at the buzzer kept South Carolina alive in this tournament, but there's much more to take away from the team's semifinal- round win. The team shot a lofty 56.4 percent from the floor, including 8- of-18 from three-point range, while also putting together an impressive night at the foul line (22-of-28). The fantastic shooting performance helped mask the Gamecocks' unsightly 25 turnovers. Leading the way was LaShay Page with 22 points on 6-of-11 from the field, while Carrera (18 points) and Brian Richardson (14 points) also impressed. The hot shooting was no accident, as the team is connecting on more than 47 percent of its field goals through five games. Carrera has been stellar (17.5 ppg, 10.0 rpg), although he's seen action in just two games. Page (15.4 ppg), Williams (12.8 ppg), and Lakeem Jackson (11.4 ppg) bring great balance to the starting lineup. The Gamecocks have also been strong on the boards, outrebounding their opponents by nearly 10 per game.
UALR put together an all-around effort against SMU, shooting 50 percent from the field (including 53.3 percent from the beyond the arc), while holding the Mustangs to a mere 36 percent from the floor. The Trojans also took care of the basketball with just seven turnovers, which is less than half their average of 15.1 per game. Will Neighbour and Leroy Isler led the way with nearly identical stat lines of 15 points and seven rebounds while shooting 2- of-3 from three-point range. James White was also effective in the victory with 12 points, six rebounds, and four assists. On the season, UALR has not typically been a strong shooting team, as it is making good on a modest 41.5 percent of its shots overall. John Gillon paces the scoring attack with 12.8 ppg, with Neighbour (11.7 ppg) and White (10.8 ppg) not far behind. The Trojans would like to get their free throw percentage up, as they are making less than 68 percent of their attempts from the stripe.
UALR is a nice story so far, and after knocking off SMU it'll certainly have plenty of confidence going into this one. South Carolina has a better combination of scoring talent and size in the frontcourt, and that will prove to be the difference.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 70, Arkansas-Little Rock 63
11/25 10:35:05 ET