Charles Leclaire-US PRESSWIRE
The Tigers take a 4-2 record into the annual rivalry tilt with Gamecocks. We have somehow managed to lose this game two years in a row despite having a superior team in both contests. And this year, on paper the Tigers once again have a superior squad. Yes, we looked bad against Purdue, but we also pushed a nationally ranked Gonzaga squad, and we’ve won handedly in all of our games against inferior competition, which is something that can’t be said of USC this year—the Gamecocks lost to Elon.
Milton is still suspended for this game, but it looks like he'll be back in the lineup in time for the Arizona game next weekend. Devin, KJ, and the other big guys (Bernard Sullivan also started in the front court against Purdue, so he is the likely candidate to start again) need to step up their game in light of Milton’s absence.
Hopefully USC’s lack of depth in the front court counteracts the loss of Milton. The Cocks have two big players in the paint in senior Lakeem Jackson (6-5, 235) and freshman Mindaugus Kacinas (6-7, 210). Junior R.J. Slawson (6-8, 220) is supposed to be a big threat for USC in the paint as well, as he has started all 6 games for the coots this year. But he’s also racked up an unbelievable 23 personal fouls thus far this season, recording at least 4 fouls in every game since the opener and fouling out twice. We need to attack him early and attack him often. Get him into foul trouble and get him out of the game.
Also watch out for LaShay Page on the outside. The guy averages 6 shots a game from beyond the arc, shooting 36% on the year. Look for Brownell to stick Rod Hall on this guy and hope that we don’t see a repeat of what happened Wednesday night with D.J. Byrd.
This is a huge game for the Tigers. The memories of the blowout loss to Purdue would quickly fade with a win over the in-state rivals. We really need this win—not just because of how it would help us this season—but because of how desperately we need a win over USC in a major sport. And we need to win this season, because with Frank Martin at the helm, the Gamecocks will likely become a perennial NCAA tournament contender in just a few years. All the more reason to get a victory over them now while the program is still down. As if we needed any more reason than we’ve already got. Game tips at noon on ESPNU.