Big Weekend For Gamecocks

Winning games on the road is not easy. Winning games on the road in conference play is even harder. After mid-week road losses, the men's and women's basketball team each picked up a big road win over the weekend. With each team beginning a three game homestand this week, it's pivotal to have a good week.

We've heard it time and time again. It's hard to win on the road. Doesn't matter what sport, doesn't matter what level - high school, college, professional. Road wins are always hard to come by, especially when you're playing in the SEC. The two South Carolina basketball programs each recorded two key road wins this weekend. The men held on late to defeat Florida, 72-69, on Saturday, and the women followed that up with a 63-58 overtime victory over Ole Miss on Sunday.

Winning on the road has been equally tough for both teams this season. The men entered the weekend 1-4 on the road this season with the lone win being a thrilling double-overtime victory at head coach Darrin Horn's Alma Mater, Western Kentucky. Granted two of the road losses were to Michigan State and Ohio State - who were each ranked #2 in the nation at the time - but the other non-conference loss was an inexcusable loss to Furman, the third loss in a Southern Conference's home gym in Horn's three years at Carolina.

The Gamecocks went on the road for the first time in conference play Wednesday night to face Alabama, who entered the game with an 8-1 record at home. The Gamecocks did all the things you can't in a road game - 20 turnovers, 29% shooting, and outrebounded 41-36 - leading to a 57-47 loss to the Crimson Tide in game that left the team knowing that they let one get away from them.

At 1-1 in the conference, the team went down to Gainesville to take on the Florida Gators - the preseason favorite to win the SEC. Florida - like Alabama - had lost only once at home in 11 games. The Gators ran into a completely different team than the one that showed up in Tuscaloosa three days before. Carolina shot 44% from the field, hit seven three-pointers, outrebounded the Gators, turned the ball over just eight times, and survived a furious comeback in the final minutes to stun the crowd at the O'Connell Center and leave the Swamp with a 72-69 win.

Though it's only one game, the difference between leaving Gainesville 2-1 - and perhaps more importantly 2-0 against teams from the East - rather than 1-2 is monumental.

The women's basketball team entered the week on a sour note after literally gift-wrapping the game to Florida at home in a 65-63 loss last Sunday. They were 0-5 away from the Colonial Life Arena, including a neutral court loss to North Carolina in Myrtle Beach. The Gamecocks knew they had to avenge that loss to the Gators and they had the perfect opportunity Thursday night against Kentucky in Lexington. After getting off to an 11-1 start and a top 10 ranking, the Wildcats had lost three in a row. After building a 37-30 lead early in the second half, it all went downhill in a hurry the remainder of the game. The Gamecocks managed just nine points the remaining 18:43 as Kentucky ran away to a 66-48 win.

Like the men's team, the women headed back on the road in desperate need of a win after a 1-3 start to conference play. That's exactly what they got despite blowing an eight point lead in the final 5:42 of regulation in Oxford. Valerie Nainima drained two three-pointers in overtime as the Gamecocks pulled out the overtime victory to stay above .500 on the season and picking up their second conference win.

Both teams return home for "Hoops Week" as part of a three-game homestand for each team. Four games are scheduled at the Colonial Life Arena this week. The men begin the week hosting Arkansas, 12-4 (2-1 SEC), on Wednesday night. The women follow that up hosting #5 Tennessee, 17-2 (5-0 SEC) on Thursday night. The men host #12 Kentucky, 14-3 (2-1 SEC), on Saturday night. The week concludes with the women's team hosting Alabama, 11-7 (0-5 SEC) on Sunday afternoon. The team's will conclude their homestand with the women hosting Georgia on January 27th and the men hosting Auburn on January 29th.

With SEC men's teams entering the week 12-6 in conference games at home and the women 17-11 at home, home games are pivotal. Though it's still very early in conference play, with each team picking up huge road wins, the next six games over the course of two weeks are key in keeping postseason hopes - NCAA Tournament for the men and WNIT for the women - alive. Winning two of three for each team is attainable - and needed.

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