They are in a four-way tie for last instead of a three-way tie for first.
They have lost four SEC games by 2, 3, 6 and 7 points and led in each of them.
USC is 11-7 overall and 1-4 in league play, including two excruciating losses at Colonial Life Arena.
Coach Frank Martin believes something will have to give. Soon. When the Gamecocks go into a place such as Mizzou Arena and have a ranked opponent such as Missouri on the ropes for the lion’s share of 40 minutes, it is clear the they are on the verge of a breakthrough.
“This song and dance for us is getting old,” Martin said after USC’s wrenching, 71-65 loss, in which the Gamecocks blew a 13-point lead. “This is Game 5 in league play and it’s five games with under two minutes to play that we’ve got a chance to win the game.
“And we’re 1-4,” he continued. “The song and dance is getting old.”
USC’s next chance to break out of the vicious late cycle comes Saturday against visiting Arkansas. The Razorbacks are 3-2 in league play, but winless on the road.
Stopping forward Marshawn Powell will be USC’s primary hurdle. Powell spearheaded Arkansas’ double-overtime win against Auburn last week with 28 points and 11 rebounds and scored 17 in a victory against Mississippi State on Wednesday.
Arkansas also has a knack for blocking shots, which has been a bugaboo for the Gamecocks of late. The Razorbacks blocked 11 shots on Wednesday.
Combining with Powell to give the Razorbacks an inside-out punch, guard BJ Young leads the team with 16.9 points per game to go with Powell’s 15.3.
Brenton Williams leads USC with 12.2 points per game. No other Gamecock is averaging double figures.
Taking care of the basketball will be vital as well. USC (minus-1.9) ranks 13th among the 14 SEC teams in turnover margin while Arkansas (plus-6.4) is the league’s best at taking care of the ball. Arkansas also is second in the SEC in steals per game, averaging 9.6.
Defending their home turf would be a big step in the right direction as the season-long learning curve continues for USC.
“The encouraging thing is, we’re knocking on the door,” Martin said. “We’re going to keep pounding on that door, now. I don’t care about records, we’re going to keep pounding that door.
“And when someone makes the mistake of cracking that door open, we’re going to kick that thing in and we are busting in that place.”
WHO: USC (11-7, 1-4 SEC); Arkansas (12-6, 3-2)
WHEN: 1:47 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Colonial Life Arena
RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM
SERIES: Arkansas leads, 14-10
COACHES: Frank Martin (11-7 in first season at USC, 128-61 in sixth season); Mike Anderson (30-20 in second season at Arkansas, 230-118 in 11th )
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: RJ Slawson posted a season-high 12 points at Missouri, giving USC a much-needed boost inside. USC is one of the best rebounding teams in the league, but has been outrebounded by one board in each of its past two games. Arkansas’ 26-point win against Mississippi State was the school’s eighth-largest margin of victory since joining the SEC. Arkansas leads the league in assists-to-turnover ratio (1.4) and is second in scoring (79.6). USC has won the past five meetings in Columbia.