South Carolina (2-5) vs. Saint Mary's-CA (9-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Sunday, December 22, 11 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300) -- Honolulu, Hawaii. Television: ESPNU. Home Record: USC 2-2, SMC 8-0. Away Record: USC 0-3, SMC 1-0. Neutral Record: USC 0-0, SMC 0-0. Conference Record: USC 0-0, SMC 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Hitting the road for just the second time this season, the Saint Mary's Gaels travel to Honolulu to challenge the South Carolina Gamecocks in the first round of the annual Diamond Head Classic at the Stan Sheriff Center.
Outside of an 82-74 win against Boise State just over a week ago in Idaho, the Gaels have enjoyed the comforts of home at McKeon Pavilion in Moraga, a facility that has seen the program win at least 15 home games in five of the last nine seasons. The most recent conquest for SMC took place on Thursday night in a low-scoring 59-44 final versus American. The Gaels have now matched their best start in program history,
As for the Gamecocks, the start to the 2013-14 campaign has been dreadful, with just two wins (Longwood and Florida International) in seven opportunities. Since taking down FIU back on Nov. 24, the team has suffered through three straight defeats, the latest being a 74-68 setback versus USC Upstate a few nights back. It was the first time the Gamecocks had ever lost to Upstate.
The winner of this first-ever meeting will take on the survivor of the Boise State/Hawaii clash in the next round on Monday.
Sindarius Thornwell led South Carolina with 19 points and seven rebounds, while Tyrone Johnson contributed 11 points, but still the team suffered the loss against USC Upstate earlier this week at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. In a game that featured three ties and seven lead changes, USC led by as many as 17 points late in the first half before it all fell apart. The hosts went from shooting only 39.4 percent from the field in the first half to a dismal 27.8 percent after intermission, connecting on a mere 8-of-29 beyond the arc overall.
Fiery head coach Frank Martin has watched his team shoot only 40.3 percent from the floor over the course of seven games, en route to 67.9 ppg. Thornwell (13.6 ppg) and Johnson (12.0 ppg) are the only double-digit scorers on the roster and no one else is even above 7.2 ppg at this point. Mindaugas Kacinas paces the group on the glass with 8.0 rpg, but his 7.1 ppg is being hampered by the fact that he is shooting just 55.6 percent at the free-throw line, compared to 54.1 percent from the floor.
After scoring 82 points against Boise State only a few days earlier, the offense for the Gaels slumped to only 59 points versus American, but at least the SMC defense held the Eagles to a mere 44 points. The points allowed by the Gaels are easily the fewest of the season, the previous low being 55 points tallied by Alcorn State last month. Brad Waldow led the offense with 17 points and Beau Levesque 10 points, as both cleared five rebounds and handed out three assists.
Shooting better from the field (.626) than he is at the charity stripe (.607), Waldow is the top scorer for the Gaels with his 17.6 ppg, not to mention leading the way on the glass with 7.3 rpg as well in order to push SMC to a rebounding advantage of more than nine per contest. Stephen Holt (13.3 ppg), James Walker (11.3 ppg) and Levesque (11.0 ppg) all have a hand in an offense that is generating 78.7 ppg, while outscoring the competition by an average of 16.1 ppg.
Even though the schedule has been a bit light on competition and they haven't had to endure much travel at all to this point, the Gaels are still a superior team to South Carolina and should have little trouble moving to 10-0 tonight.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Saint Mary's-CA 77, South Carolina 62
12/22 11:12:51 ET