The Gamecocks come into Saturday's 1 p.m. game at Beard-Eaves Memorial Coliseum on a four-game losing streak. At 14-14 and 5-10 in the SEC, Coach Dave Odom's Gamecocks will take on an Auburn team trying to secure the No. 4 seed from the west for next week's SEC Men's Basketball Tournament in Nashville.
"South Carolina is athletic, experienced and they have lost a ton of close games," says Auburn coach Jeff Lebo. "This year they have been a little inconsistent. I know Coach Odom has been frustrated with the inconsistent play.
"They are a team that had a lot of guys back from last year, mostly juniors and seniors on their team," Lebo notes. "They are coming off one-point losses to Vanderbilt and Georgia and a three-point heartbreaker to LSU. They have two wins over Florida so they are certainly capable."
"They have a very good offensive player in Kinsey (6-6 senior forward Terence Kinsey)," Lebo adds. "When they shoot the ball from the perimeter they can beat anybody."
Lebo's team is 12-14 overall and 4-11 in the conference. AU had won two straight before falling 71-61 at Alabama on Wednesday.
The Auburn coach says his team definitely has motivation beyond wanting to win for Ronny LeMelle, who will be honored on Saturday for Senior Day.
"From a mental standpoint, we were picked last in the league," Lebo says. "Being able not to finish there would be big. To jump into a fourth seed would be big for our kids. You are looking for anything positive at this point of the season. It has been a hard season, a long season."
A victory over the Gamecocks would assure the Tigers the spot as the fourth seed in Nashville. "That would be, I think, a very positive thing as we finish up playing," Lebo adds. "I think we are playing our best basketball right now."
LeMelle is leading the Tigers with an average of 12.8 points per game and freshman Rasheem Barrett is next with 11 points per outing.
Kinsey is averaging 15.2 points per game for the Gamecocks and 6-1 junior guard Tre Kelly is scoring 11.6 points and adding 4.3 assists per contest.
Terence Kinsey plays defense against Vanderbilt's Mario Moore.
Antoine Tisby, a 6-8 forward, is averaging 5.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game for the Gamecocks. Other starters include 6-10, 198 center Brandon Wallace, who is averaging 7.5 points and 6.1 rebounds, along with 6-3 guard Rocky Trice, who is averaging 7.0 points and 3.0 rebounds.
Renaldo Balkman, a 6-8 junior forward, is averaging 9.6 points and 5.9 rebounds. He is expected to come in off the bench along with 6-6 forward Dwayne Day, who is scoring 5.6 points to go with 2.3 rebounds per contest.
South Carolina features three senior starters. Auburn's only senior on the team is LeMelle. He will be honored on Saturday along with 1950s star Rex Frederick, who will have his jersey retired.
"He is a smart basketball player," Lebo says of LeMelle. "He knows how to play. For a team that is young, we needed somebody to step up and do that."