Hopefully some home cooking and presents – along with play time in the snow – will help the Gamecocks shake off last week’s loss at Furman.
The Gamecocks (7-3) are scheduled to return to practice today after the Christmas break to get ready to finish its non-conference schedule. South Carolina will look to boost its RPI after taking a small hit in losing to the Paladins. USC now ranks 83rd, according to realtimerpi.com.
In its three remaining non-conference games, South Carolina faces two of the nation’s worst teams and a stronger-than-expected ACC foe. All the games are at Colonial Life Arena.
Wednesday’s opponent, Jacksonville State, has the nation’s worst RPI. The Gamecocks from Alabama (2-11) have lost seven straight, including an overtime defeat to Presbyterian. Jacksonville State is scoring near-national worst 59.7 points a game. This is should be the kind of game where USC head coach Darrin Horn can get some quality minutes from his bench.
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Boston College’s New Year’s Day celebration in Columbia will be a key test – providing a glimpse into how the Gamecocks will handle SEC play. The Eagles (10-2) are on a seven-game winning streak with victories stretching across the nation against California, Indiana and Massachusetts. Boston College beat reigning ACC champ Maryland in College Park.
South Carolina is 1-2 against major-conference opponents this year and could use a win over Boston College -- and its top 20 RPI ranking -- to balance out the loss to Furman.
S.C. State – USC’s final non-conference opponent -- is 4-8, but all of its wins are against non-Division I schools that don’t count toward the RPI. The Bulldogs -- which has lost to Furman, the Citadel and Clemson -- have the nation’s fourth-worst RPI. This again should be a game to use the bench that will be crucial for conference play.
Having 10 wins – and a three-game winning steak – heading into SEC play should lift the Gamecocks after two straight defeats. But a lopsided loss to Boston College would suggest harsher struggles ahead in the conference.
Meanwhile, here are other notes from Furman’s first win against South Carolina in 30 years:
USC guard Brian Richardson’s 15 points was a career high.
Furman’s 91 points was the most scored against South Carolina this season.
The Gamecocks’ 26 rebounds was a season low.
Furman’s 52.6 percent shooting was the second-highest versus USC this season. Only Michigan State’s 54.7 percent was higher. The Paladins’ 46.7 percent shooting from the 3-point arc was a season-high against the Gamecocks.