No. 19/20 South Carolina (17-4, 7-1 SEC) at LSU (9-11, 1-7 SEC)
When: 8 p.m. (CT) Wednesday
TV/Radio: SEC Network | The Eagle (98.1-FM, Baton Rouge)
Series: The Gamecocks inched in front 16-15 last season with a victory, but is just 4-8 in Baton Rouge.
Last meeting: South Carolina rolled past LSU 94-83 last Feb. 10 in Columbia.
Last time out:Texas Tech 77, LSU 64; South Carolina 63, Missouri 53
Antonio Blakeney turned up big with the ESPN spotlight on him in the SEC/Big 12 Challenge with 23 points on 8-for-16 shooting and 3-for-7 from 3-point range. It was his first game with 20-plus since the second game of the league season when he dropped 24 on Missouri. … Duop Reath was efficient if not explosive against Texas Tech with 12 points and 11 rebounds, his third best single-game total this season. He only shot seven times, making five, which was only one more than his four turnovers. … Jalyn Patterson equaled his second-best assists total of the season with 6 against the Red Raiders, but also turned the ball over four times. … Wayde Sims produced 10 points vs. Tech, his sixth game in double digits this season. All have come in groups of two. He has connected on 15 of his last 23 floor shots.
Projected starting lineups
G Antonio Blakeney (16.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 31 assists, 46.4% FG, 32-89 3-pt. FG)
G Skylar Mays (7.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg, 3.9 apg, 40-51 FT)
G Jalyn Patterson (6.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 3.7 apg, 26 steals)
F Duop Reath (13.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 55% FG, 35 blocks)
F Aaron Epps (6.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 47.1% FG, 9-23 3-pt. FG)
Off the bench: G Brandon Sampson (10.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg, 48.1% FG, 25-76 3-pt. FG), F Wayde Sims 6.3 ppg, 3.4 rpg, 51.6% FG), C Elbert Robinson (2.3 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 61.5% FG)
G Sindarius Thornwell (19.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 3.2 apg, 40.6% 3-pt. FG)
G Duane Notice (10 ppg, 2.2 rpg, 2.3 apg)
G PJ Dozier (13.6 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.8 apg, 38.7% 3-pt. FG)
F Malik Kotsar (6.9 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 51.6% FG)
F Chris Silva (9.6 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 36 blocks, 57% FG, 64-85 FT)
Off the bench: Rakym Felder (6.1 ppg, 1.7 apg, 47.1% 3-pt. FG), Justin McKie (5 ppg, 2.7 rpg), Hassani Gravett (4.5 ppg, 16-24 FT)
Matchup to watch
How LSU defends Sindarius Thornwell: If not for a suspension, the Gamecocks’ senior would he thick in the discussion for SEC Player of the Year. When he is clicking, Carolina is tough to defend, and that presents a challenge for the at times defensively inept Tigers. In the past, Jones has rotated defenders with different skills on a tough opposing guard to give him different looks and in an effort to wear him down. That might be the strategy Wednesday, with Mays, Patterson, Blakeney and Sampson all spending time trying to slow the Gamecocks’ star down.
Keys to the game
Similarly to Florida and Texas Tech, South Carolina is a strong team having a solid season because of the ability to make opponents work for points, as well as a knack for staying patient against a defense until it breaks down. USC leads the SEC in scoring defense (allowing 60.8 points a game) and field-goal defense (foes shoot just 37.2%), so the Tigers have match that patience and understand that halfcourt points will be at a premium. The Gamecocks are tied for the SEC lead because they know how to win in a variety of ways, which is reflected in their last two games – a 98-69 rout over Auburn and grind-it-out 63-53 triumph at Missouri. Carolina isn’t as comfortable in an up-tempo game, so LSU could find some success with a press to accelerate the tempo, but the Tigers have to balance that by making sure the limit the Gamecocks second-chance opportunities.