They all count the same – one win, one loss (at least before the NCAA selection committee gets hold of them).
Yet South Carolina said while it gets up for every game, some carry a little extra. A game for first place. A game against a team the Gamecocks couldn’t beat a year ago.
A game, like Tuesday’s, against an Alabama team that snapped a 15-0 start last season.
“Not that we need any other form of motivation, but the fact that Georgia beat us, how many times last year? That kind of motivated us,” senior Duane Notice said. “(Alabama) beat us pretty bad at their home place in front of everybody, they’re dancing and stuff like that. That kind of stuck with us.”
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The No. 19 Gamecocks (19-4, 9-1 SEC), newly christened as the leader of the SEC pack, took care of the Bulldogs on Saturday and earned some personal pride, since now they no longer have to think of the 0-3 stinker a year ago. The Crimson Tide (13-9, 6-4) are next on the schedule, and carry another piece of get-up.
USC was floating on a 15-0 (2-0 SEC) start last year when it went to Coleman Coliseum. When Alabama pasted the Gamecocks 73-50, stroking 13 3-pointers despite their status as the SEC’s lowest-scoring team and 12th-worst shooting team, it was more than one loss.
The critics started beating the drum of “soft scheduling” and “not as good as the record” in a chorus that didn’t stop until Selection Sunday. When the Gamecocks had a few more losses afterward – like those three against Georgia – coda after coda was added.
USC is getting respect this year, especially after rising to first place. It’s the Tide seeking more, with a respectable 6-4 record in the league.
“I just think that they’re very big and very physical,” USC coach Frank Martin said. “I don’t know why they don’t get more credit for how good they are as a team.”
Being in the SEC is most of the answer. Alabama lost twice to Auburn, but thrashed Georgia on its home floor.
The Gamecocks certainly aren’t taking them lightly. Martin spoke of the Tide’s presence in the paint, a concern considering Chris Silva and Maik Kotsar are foul-prone.
“They replaced (Retin) Obasohan with (Corban) Collins, who’s built like Obasohan, but more of a jumpshooter,” Martin said. “They’re shot-blocking, physical at the rim, physical on the perimeter. (Riley) Norris can’t be lost on 3s.”
Norris rained 3s on USC last year, but the Gamecocks’ 3-point defense is the best in the country this year. USC’s overall defense is the best in the league.
It’s also coming off a gutsy win over Georgia in front of a sellout crowd, the first this year. And has the knowledge of what it didn’t do when in first place last year, as opposed to carrying the burden this year.
It’s a burden the Gamecocks like, but know how hard it was to earn, and keep lifted.
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Who: Alabama (13-9, 6-4 SEC) at No. 19 USC (19-4, 9-1)
When: 6:30 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 FM
Alabama’s probable starters: G Dazon Ingram 6-5 Fr. (10.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg); F Braxton Key 6-8 Fr. (12.1 ppg, 6.0 rpg); G/F Riley Norris 6-7 Jr. (8.9 ppg, 3.5 rpg); F Jimmie Taylor 6-10 Sr. (5.5 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Bola Olaniyan 6-7 Sr. (2.9 ppg, 5.7 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (14.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (19.1 ppg, 6.9 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.5 ppg, 2.2 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (6.7 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (9.6 ppg, 5.9 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina tips off at Mississippi State at 8 p.m. on Saturday.