Who: Limestone (6-7) at South Carolina (8-3)
When: 3 p.m. Wednesday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
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TV: SEC Network Plus/WatchESPN app
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area
Series: First meeting
Last meeting: N/A
Coach: Brandon Scott (169-138 in 11 seasons at Limestone)
Projected starters: G Kenny Hairston (20.9 ppg), G Walter Cole (5.0), G Jaquan Simms (9.8), F Donovan Harris (7.8), F Macoumba Kane (6.8)
Last game: Lost at Carson-Newman, 84-72, on Dec. 19
Notes: Limestone is a Division II program that participates in the Conference Carolinas. … The Saints went 27-6 last season and won the Conference Carolinas, sweeping the league’s regular season and tournament titles for the first time in school history. … Limestone last faced a Division I opponent Dec. 7, 2014, when it lost at UNC-Asheville, 91-66.
Coach: Frank Martin (221-131 in 10 seasons overall; Sixth season at USC — 104-77).
Projected starters: G Hassani Gravett (8.5 ppg); G Frank Booker (10.5); F Justin Minaya (9.8); F Chris Silva (13.5); F Maik Kotsar (9.5)
Last game: Lost at Clemson, 64-48, on Dec. 19
Notes: Minaya missed all six of his field goal attempts against Clemson. It marked the first scoreless game in the freshman’s career. ... The Gamecocks are 8-0 this season when they shot better than 45 percent from the floor. They’re 0-3 when failing to hit that benchmark. … Kotsar hasn’t made a free throw since Nov. 17 against UTEP. He’s missed his last 10 attempts.
1. WHY IS THIS GAME HAPPENING?
This marks the fourth straight season in which USC is taking on an in-state Division II opponent. The Gamecocks beat Coker (2014), Francis Marion (2015) and Lander (2016) by a combined 76 points.
So why is Martin continuing this tradition?
“We’ve talked to all the non-DI coaches in the state,” Martin said during his radio show last week, “and we kind of explained and expressed to all of them we can’t play all of them the same year and we can’t play anyone for a second time until we play every school. And Limestone’s one of those schools we haven’t played yet. … Playing all these coaches in this state, it’s phenomenal. It allows me to get to know them. It allows me to see their teams in person.
“It keeps the money in the state, which to me is huge. These smaller schools, the reason they’re small is because their budgets are small. So giving them the opportunity to collect that kind of money is something they’re not afforded very often.”
2. GUARD WATCH
Gravett, Minaya and Booker combined for five points on 1 of 17 shooting against Clemson. Their struggles – and foul trouble – allowed more opportunity for reserve guards Wesley Myers, Kory Holden and David Beatty. The bench trio contributed 23 points, including 10 from Myers.
Should USC be successful in the SEC, it’s going to need backcourt depth. Gravett, Minaya and Booker won’t come up that small on a regular basis, but can Myers, Holden and Holden show consistency off the bench?
Holden pulled a hamstring against the Tigers. His status for Wednesday is unknown.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the SEC was No. 3 in conference RPI. Joe Lunardi’s latest bracket projection has seven SEC teams in the Big Dance.
The road ahead is a difficult one for the Gamecocks. After Wednesday, it’s a New Year’s Eve trip to Ole Miss, beginning a challenging league slate.
Carolina would like to come out this Limestone matchup with an encouraging win and a clean bill of health.