1st Game Possibilities Bama & South Carolina

The Florida Gators have earned a first round bye in the 2012 SEC basketball tournament, but now they have to wait to see who they face in their first game. The two possibilities are Alabama and South Carolina. Here is a run down of how the two teams finished and are looking heading into post season action and in New Orleans for the conference tournament.

The Tide, which is 20-10 overall, will play last-place South Carolina on the first day of the tourney in New Orleans.

The two teams met in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 25 with the Tide becoming one of the Gamecocks' two SEC victims by a 56-54 count.

That was the fourth setback for the Tide in a four-game losing streak. The Tide went 7-3 after that despite having to contend with injuries and suspensions to as many as four players, including the top two scorers and rebounders, JaMychal Green and Tony Mitchell.

Green has since returned along with two others, Trevor Releford and Andrew Steele who served one suspensions. Mitchell will miss the rest of the season.

Green recorded his 26th career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds in Alabama's loss at Ole Miss. He was 5-of-8 from the field and also blocked three shots, handed out two assists, and had one steal against no turnovers.

Since returning from the four-game suspension, Green scored 35 points and gathered 26 rebounds in his final three regular-season games.

Three-point shooting remained a huge problem for Alabama. The Tide was only 5-of-20 from three-point range in the loss at Ole Miss with sophomore G Trevor Releford and freshman G Levi Randolph each going 2-of-6.

Nobody else hit more than one attempt.

For the regular season, the Tide shot only 28.5 percent from long distance, last in the league.

Ole Miss became just the 12th team in 30 games this season to hit the 60-point mark against Bama.

Despite the loss at Ole Miss, Alabama has reached the 20-win level for the 26th time in school history.

FUTURES MARKET: Considered a lock for the NCAA field for most of the season, the Tide needs at least one victory to solidify its chances for an at-large bid to the 68-team field. Alabama last won the SEC tourney in 1991 and last played in the tourney title game in 2002, losing 61-58 to Mississippi State. The Tide has advanced past the second round only twice since then, the last time last year when it lost to Kentucky 72-58 in the semifinals. If the Tide wins its first-round game over the Gamecocks, it will play Florida in the quarterfinals.

PLAYER NOTES:

Freshman G Trevor Lacey, who sprained his ankle against Arkansas on Feb. 23 and has been fighting through the injury ever since, was scoreless in 16 minutes against Ole Miss after scoring 10 points in 24 minutes in the previous game against Auburn.

Junior G Andrew Steele matched his season-high in assists with seven at Ole Miss but also was charged with five turnovers. He scored nine points.

Freshman F Nick Jacobs had eight rebounds against the Rebels, nearly matching his total of nine for his previous three games after missing the win over Tennessee because of illness.

SOUTH CAROLINA

Two more losses to close out the season made this year's South Carolina squad only the third team in school history to lose 20 games. With only 10 wins, the Gamecocks enter the Southeastern Conference Tournament one win short of tying the football team's victory total.

The squad has been equally bad in SEC play, where is it 2-14, making it only the third league team to claim just two victories since the 2001-02 campaign.

This week the Gamecocks dropped an overtime decision to a Mississippi State team that entered the encounter on a five-game losing streak of its own, then traveled to Athens, where it fell 67-55 loss to a Georgia team it defeated earlier this season in Columbia.

Among the issues?

South Carolina continued a trend that has haunted it throughout the season -- an inability to score as it connected on only 18 of 49 field goals and six of 20 3-point shots. Although the Gamecocks held Georgia to virtually the same shooting percentage, the Bulldogs picked up 12 offensive rebounds. That only resulted in one more shot than USC, but they had 16 more free-throw attempts, which resulted in a 10-point edge.

The Gamecocks also struggled defensively as, after building a 10-0 lead, their zone defense left Georgia shooters open, allowing the Bulldogs to not only get back into the game but take control.

USC has gotten little support from its bench and the Bulldogs' reserves outscored it.

"We've got to grow up," said a frustrated USC coach Darrin Horn following the loss to Georgia. "Look at the stat sheet. We held them to under 40 percent. They didn't shoot a high percentage from three. It's not the collective part in that, it's the timing."

Sophomore PG Bruce Ellington has been up and down throughout the season. Although he is second on the team in scoring at 11 points per game, his consistency has been a problem. He has played more like his freshman campaign in recent games, however. With the team preparing to enter the Southeastern Conference it may be too late to take advantage of it, but Horn is pleased Ellington is finally beginning to exhibit the confidence he displayed a year ago.

"Bruce has displayed the aggressiveness he played with as a freshman," said Horn. "It has taken about six months and come late after playing football but we're just happy it has happened."

Sophomore F Damontre Harris scored only three points against Georgia, but pulled down a team-high nine rebounds, while blocking two shots. He was even more impressive in South Carolina's previous game against Mississippi State when he registered his second career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. He was seven of eight from the field in that game, while contributing two blocks and two steals.

"Damontre has been playing his best basketball," said Horn. "He has been a key force inside for us. He is crucial to our success."

Thursday marks Darrin Horn's fourth trip to the Southeastern Conference Tournament. When his South Carolina team meets up with Alabama, he will attempt to accomplish something that has eluded him -- a postseason league win. The Gamecocks fell to Mississippi State in his initial tourney game. That has been followed by a five-point loss to Auburn and an 11-point defeat at the hands of Mississippi. If he loses to the Crimson Tide on Thursday, his team will tie for the most losses in school history with 21.

Senior F Malik Cooke has been USC's captain and leading player throughout the season. The team's leading scorer led his team with 17 points in the school's regular-season finale against Georgia. He was particularly impressive from long range where he made three of four 3-point baskets.

"This is a whole new season going into the tournament," Said Cooke. We've just got to be positive because anything can happen. I like our chances in the tournament. We're going to get back to work and start preparing for whenever we play."

South Carolina is close to completing its third consecutive losing season under coach Darrin Horn. After leading the Gamecocks to a 21-10 record and a tie for first place in the SEC East Division in his first campaign, Horn's USC teams own a combined 39-52 record and are 13-35 in league play. Horn remained confident he can turn the ship around.

"Our record is our record," said Horn. "We don't make any excuses for that. And I think any criticism or frustration with that is justified and we understand that. But I also think that there's been, you know, been strides in the program. That there's been growth and we've got a group and a staff and a team that's worked extremely hard. A lot of promising things that are happening, and a lot of young talent that we are really excited about."

PLAYER NOTES:

Sophomore G Brenton Williams has given the Gamecocks an offensive pick-me-up in many games this season. He enters the Southeastern Conference Tournament struggling, however, as he has scored only three combined points in Carolina's last two games. He missed both shots as he went scoreless in the team's regular-season finale against Georgia.


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