USC Men's Basketball

With nation’s best 3-point defense, USC plays best two SEC 3-point teams

It’s not a fundamental problem, they say. It’s a scouting problem.

The report on each opponent concentrates on the starting five and three to four key substitutes. It’s been the other guys, the ones on the end of the bench who haven’t been producing, that have gashed South Carolina the last two games.

“Avery Johnson Jr. averages seven points a game, scores 25,” coach Frank Martin said. “The young man that just made five or six of them for Mississippi State (Tyson Carter), he had scored a total of 26 points in their last 10 games, has 22 against us. We got to do a better job of identifying reserves that don’t do a lot of scoring so our players are a little bit more alert to it.”

Johnson and Carter each posted career-highs against the No. 21 Gamecocks a week ago, and each did it with a weapon USC had defused throughout the season. The Gamecocks still rank first in the country in 3-point defense, but after giving up too many big 3s against Alabama and then 11 at MSU, there were heads being scratched.

The defense didn’t slip, Sindarius Thornwell said. Give credit to the offense, especially those guys who aren’t supposed to score but did.

“They made tough 3s, they made open 3s,” Thornwell said. “We haven’t had a problem with it all season. (It’s a) matter of guys got to guard the ball and be in defensive position to get out there to the shooter.”

USC did that in the second half against MSU, holding the Bulldogs to three shots from long range after eight in the first. They won, remaining in first place in the SEC with six games to go, and removed any lingering bad feelings from the loss to the Crimson Tide.

Now it’s another week of conference play, and as it happens, USC will be challenged by two teams which are good at what it was recently burned by. Wednesday’s opponent, Arkansas, is second in the SEC in 3-point percentage. Vanderbilt, Saturday’s opponent, is first.

The Razorbacks are scuffling, seeing a solid NCAA tournament resume turn sour in the past week. They lost to Missouri, the Tigers’ first SEC win, then fell to Vanderbilt after being blown away in the first 10 minutes.

That one had Bud Walton Arena booing its own tenant and the flames started under coach Mike Anderson’s seat. The Razorbacks responded by scraping past LSU but are desperate to get back on the path they were on.

A win over a Top 25 team would do that. USC (20-5, 10-2 SEC) wants to prevent it.

“You better take good shots and not turn it over against them,” Martin said. “They are some aggressive, scoring guards. We’ve got to be very, very clean offensively, where we don’t turn it over, we don’t take bad shots.”

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Game info

Who: Arkansas (18-7, 7-5 SEC) No. 21 USC (20-5, 10-2)

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 FM

Starting lineups

Arkansas’ probable starters: G Anton Beard 6-0 Jr. (8.8 ppg, 2.2 rpg); G Dusty Hannahs 6-3 Sr. (14.7 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Jaylen Barford 6-3 Jr. (11.2 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Moses Kingsley 6-10 Sr. (11.7 ppg, 7.5 rpg); F Adrio Bailey 6-6 Fr. (2.1 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (14.0 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (20.8 ppg, 7.5 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.2 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (6.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (9.8 ppg, 5.8 rpg)

Next game: South Carolina tips off at Vanderbilt at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday.

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