South Carolina (12-19) vs. Auburn (13-15)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Wednesday, March 12, 7 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Georgia Dome (71,228) -- Atlanta, Georgia. Television: SEC Network, ESPN3.com. Home Record: South Carolina 9-7, Auburn 12-6. Away Record: South Carolina 1-11, Auburn 1-8. Neutral Record: South Carolina 2-1, Auburn 0-1. Conference Record: South Carolina 4-13, Auburn 5-12. Series Record: Auburn leads, 22-14.
GAME NOTES: The 2014 SEC Tournament will tip off at the Georgia Dome with first-round action on Wednesday night, as the 13th-seeded South Carolina Gamecocks tangle with the 12th-seeded Auburn Tigers.
Awaiting the winner in the second round on Thursday afternoon will be fifth- seeded Arkansas.
South Carolina endured a tough season at 12-19 overall and just 4-13 in league play, but it carries some momentum heading into this event with wins in two of its last three, including a shocking victory at home versus Kentucky on March 1, 72-67, and a road win over Mississippi State in the regular-season finale, 74-62.
Auburn (13-15) finished slightly ahead South Carolina in the SEC standings at 5-12 in the league and is coming off a solid road win over Texas A&M in the regular-season finale (69-64). The Tigers' success was almost exclusively at home, however, as they have gone just 1-9 combined in road and neutral-court matchups.
The Tigers beat the Gamecocks twice during the regular season by a combined 21 points. Auburn has now won four in a row versus South Carolina to extend its lead in the all-time series to 22-14.
The Gamecocks ended the regular season on a high note by capturing a 12-point road victory over Mississippi State, shooting a lofty 10-of-20 from 3-point range in the process while asserting their dominance in the rebounding battle, 46-27. Brenton Williams was the spark plug with 27 points on 7-of-14 shooting from beyond the arc. Sindarius Thornwell tallied a double-double with 22 points and 11 rebounds, while Mindaugas Kacinas narrowly missed one with 13 points and nine boards.
South Carolina has not been very strong offensively this season, shooting 41.9 percent from the field for 68.8 ppg, and its scoring defense (70.7 ppg) has been lackluster as well. Williams is the top threat with 15.2 ppg on 87-of-202 from 3-point range (.370), and his free-throw percentage (.947) ranks as the nation's best. Thornwell (13.5 ppg) has been solid as well, as he was named to the SEC All-Freshman Team.
Auburn captured its first victory away from its home arena last Saturday by downing Texas A&M by five, with a Chris Denson layup with 3:05 remaining proving to be the game winner. They shot 45.1 percent from the field and 16- of-20 at the free-throw line, won the rebounding battle (35-25) and committed just nine turnovers. KT Harrell poured in a team-high 20 points, Denson tallied 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Asauhn Dixon-Tatum scored 12 and blocked three shots.
The Tigers have had little trouble putting points on the board this season (72.0 ppg), but they have allowed nearly the same production on the opposite end of the floor (71.8 ppg). Denson is the league's second-leading scorer with 19.2 ppg, while KT Harrell is hot on his heels with 18.4 ppg and Tahj Shamsid- Deem adds 9.7 ppg to the mix. Dixon-Tatum isn't much for scoring (5.9 ppg), but he's a mainstay in the paint with 6.1 rpg and 2.0 bpg.
South Carolina has turned things around just in time for the tournament, but it'll still have a difficult time outscoring an Auburn squad that clearly has its number.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Auburn 75, South Carolina 70
03/12 10:38:24 ET