Who: No. 11 seed South Carolina (17-15, 7-11 SEC) vs. No. 6 Arkansas (21-10, 10-8)
What: SEC tournament second round game
When: 9:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Scottrade Center in St. Louis
KenPom prediction: Arkansas 77, South Carolina 72
TV: SEC Network
Radio: 107.5 The Game in Columbia area
Series: Arkansas leads 19-13
Last meeting: Feb. 6, 2018 – Arkansas won 81-65 in Fayetteville
Streak: Arkansas has won two in a row and four of five
Coach: Frank Martin (230-143 in 11 seasons overall; Sixth season at USC — 113-89). Martin is 3-5 against Arkansas.
Projected starters: G Hassani Gravett (7.4 ppg); G Evan Hinson (2.9); G Justin Minaya (7.9); F Chris Silva (14.3); F Maik Kotsar (7.5)
Last game: Beat Ole Miss 85-84 in Wednesday’s first round
Notes: The Gamecocks under Martin are 4-5 in the SEC tournament, never advancing past the quarterfinals. The Ole Miss win was USC’s first in this tournament since 2015. … Silva on Wednesday became the 45th player in South Carolina history to reach 1,000 points for his career. His 20 free throw attempts against the Rebels fell two short of the most ever taken by a Gamecock in an SEC tournament game (BJ McKie vs. Ole Miss in 1998). … Since being held scoreless at Mississippi State on Feb. 24, sixth man Frank Booker has averaged 24.3 points the last three games
Coach: Mike Anderson (349-182 in 16 seasons overall; Seventh season at Arkansas – 149-84). Anderson is 6-3 against South Carolina.
Projected starters: G Jaylen Barford (17.9), G Daryl Macon (17.1), G Anton Beard (9.6), F Trey Thompson (3.5), F Daniel Gafford (12.1)
Last game: Lost to Missouri 77-67 on Saturday in Columbia, Missouri
Notes: The Razorbacks, who fell to Kentucky in last year’s title game, haven’t won the SEC tournament since 2000. … Barford and Macon are the only two players in the SEC to rank in the top 10 in points per game, three-point FG percentage and FG percentage. The All-SEC pair last week became the sixth and seventh players in program history to score 1,000 career points in just two seasons. … Arkansas’ 113 dunks are the most in the Anderson era. Gafford’s 68 dunks this season are more than six SEC Teams.
1. Slowing Barford and Macon, somehow
Martin wasn’t happy with USC’s performance against Ole Miss, most notably because he felt the Gamecocks struggled to guard the Rebels’ ball-handlers. (Terence Davis and Breein Tyree combined for 34 points.)
Enter Barford and Macon, a duo that combined to drop 49 on Carolina in the first meeting. It marked only the second time this season in which Gamecocks allowed two opposing players over 20 points in a game.
“Those two guys are dynamic,” Martin said. “Those two guys are real good. Barford and Macon are real good. And they have the unique ability of being hard shot makers. So if you get them on a night where they've got it going, not only are they going to go make the easy shots, they're going to make the hard shots.”
2. Silva vs. Gafford
Silva’s ninth double-double of the season Wednesday could have been heavier on the points side had he hit his season free throw percentage (75.7). Still, the junior, went 13 of 20 from the line en route to 21 points.
Gafford, a 6-foot-11, 234-pound rookie, is a near-future pro. The All-SEC freshman team honoree is averaging 14.5 points and 6.3 rebounds over his last nine games. He had 11 and 6 against the Gamecocks in the first matchup.
“He’s lanky,” Silva said. “When you play somebody lanky like that, you got to be smart. You can’t try to make a hook shot in front of him because he’s got long arms and stuff. You can’t try to power him because he might be willing to take a charge and that will hurt me.
“You just got to be smart and try to play around him, face-up and stuff.”
3. Playing clean
Arkansas’ signature full-court pressure wasn’t a huge reason for USC’s 18 turnovers in the first matchup, Martin said.
“It wasn't they doubled us in the backcourt and we tried to throw out and they stole it,” he said. “It was just simple basketball plays that we struggled with. We've got to be a lot better there.”
Failing to execute the “simple basketball play” has been a theme for the Gamecocks lately. Auburn on Saturday turned them over 20 times a week after Mississippi State turned them over a season-high 21 times.
The Razorbacks will pounce on such sloppiness. They scored 26 points off USC’s turnovers last month.
“We struggled passing the ball point to wing, wing to point,” Martin said. “So any time you turn it over point to wing, wing to point, it's a layup for them. It's a track meet. They're too good, too fast in all five spots.”