Perhaps South Carolina is catching No. 8 Texas A&M at a great time. The Aggies have lost their last two SEC games.
Perhaps the No. 25 Gamecocks are walking into a hornet’s nest, with A&M ready to get back to what won its last home game, a 10-point whipping of then-No. 14 Iowa State.
Whatever the case, the Gamecocks (19-3, 6-3 SEC) have to do what they do well to pull off the upset. In other words, the opposite of the listless energy they showcased in a loss to Georgia on Tuesday.
“Everyone started sluggish that game,” forward Mindaugas Kacinas said on Friday. “I think we’re ready to go.”
USC began the first of a crucial four-game stretch with a thud, being out-hustled by the Bulldogs and unable to make a shot. Not a finesse team, the Gamecocks score by driving the lane and getting to the free-throw line – the first half featured them camping on the 3-point arc, firing misses as Georgia collected rebounds and scored in transition.
It was one bad game, and only USC’s third loss of the year. Yet, as the Gamecocks (19-3, 6-3 SEC) seek to final-stamp their postseason, it was a bad time for a bad loss.
USC coach Frank Martin and his team said they don’t pay attention to statistics, standings and the like, ignoring the numerous “Bracketology” posts that are beginning to appear nearly every day as March approaches.
The outsiders agree that USC will be in the tournament at this point, but probably as a lower seed. A season that ends in the NCAA Tournament is never a failure, especially at a program where there have only been eight trips there.
It’s why the egg laid in Athens was such a knife in the ribs. By itself, it didn’t mean much since the way the SEC is beating itself up this year. USC heads to Texas A&M with a shot at first place (LSU would have to lose). But with A&M, LSU and Kentucky up next …
Well, the Gamecocks needed that win at Georgia. They didn’t get it, so they need to try and replace it with another.
A victory over a team sharing first place in the league would definitely do that.
“Obviously, they’re the best team in the SEC right now so everybody’s excited to play them,” Kacinas said. “You got to win on the road if you want to have a good season.”
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NO. 25 SOUTH CAROLINA (19-3, 6-3 SEC) at NO. 8 TEXAS A&M (18-4, 7-2)
When: 4 p.m. Saturday
Where: Reed Arena, College Station, Texas
Tickets: Available at the box office
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 Fr. (7.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Jr. (12.1 ppg, 5.0 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Sr. (10.5 ppg, 5.6 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 Sr. (13.8 ppg, 7.4 rpg); C Chris Silva 6-9 Fr. (5.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg)
Texas A&M’s probable starters: G Anthony Collins 6-1 Sr. (4.7 ppg, 1.4 rpg); G Danuel House 6-7 Sr. (15.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg); G Alex Caruso 6-5 Sr. (8.0 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G/F Jalen Jones 6-7 Sr. (16.1 ppg, 7.3 rpg); C Tyler Davis 6-10 Fr. (11.2 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Next game: The Gamecocks host LSU at 7 p.m. on Wednesday.