Gamecocks prepare to face Tigers

The South Carolina men's basketball team will hit the road once again this weekend as they travel to Auburn, Alabama to face Tony Barbee's Tigers. Auburn will look to defend what has been a strong home court advantage this season, while USC is still in search of their first Southeastern Conference win.

With a combined 1-6 league record between them, some would say that Saturday's matchup between South Carolina (8-9, 0-3 SEC) and Auburn (11-7, 1-3 SEC) does not pack much of a punch. But for two squads desperately trying to reverse their SEC fortunes, it is setting up to be an intense battle.

USC was off in the midweek after playing Florida last weekend, and Coach Horn said that the extra practice time was used to work on the little things he believes will lead the Gamecocks to their first conference victory.

"I think individually you obviously spend some time with individuals on really simple little things," said Horn. "Some of the shooters, just making sure you're down and ready. Don't rush your shot. With bigs, getting the ball, taking your time inside. Some individual things like that. As a team some time on our zone offense because we're going to see quite a bit of zone potentially tomorrow on the road. And then just little things like spacing and execution stuff that make a big difference."

With games against Florida and Kentucky looming to start the month of February, as well as contests against Alabama and Ole Miss to finish out January, this game could definitely be seen as a "must-win" for USC. But according to Coach Horn, getting better in order to have a chance to win is the main focus.

"You guys have heard me talk about that before, I'm not a big ‘must-win' guy. When you're in the middle of the season and it obviously becomes tournament time or something like that and your season's about to be over there's no question. I think there's a point in games, where we need to take a step. Obviously getting one in the win column is important for this team and something that there's no question we need to do. We need to play them better and coach them better for that to happen. And at the same time this is a team that we need to focus on what we must do to have a chance to win. And that's where the challenge has been, I think we've showed it every game we've played in league play that we're capable of doing the things we need to do to come out on top."

While the team has put together some solid halves of basketball, the focus has now turned to stretching that solid play into a full game.

"In some ways we're no different than a shooter that's been in a slump that just needs to see that one go in, I think us going out and doing it in a way that's good enough to get us a win will probably help a lot of that," said Horn. "That kind of goes without saying. But I think our guys do feel that heading into the game. And now we've got to do it over a forty minute stretch."

Auburn comes in tied for third in the league in assists, one of the few offensive categories where the Tigers have excelled this season. They are led in scoring by junior guard Frankie Sullivan who is averaging 12 points per contest. Joining him in averaging double figures scoring are senior forward Kenny Gabriel, sophomore guard Chris Denson, and junior center Rob Chubb. Gabriel also leads the Tigers in rebounds with 8.1 per game.

Coach Horn said that Auburn's up-tempo style is a big positive for their team, as is their dominance in the Auburn Arena this year.

"I think they're a team that is really trying to control tempo and have done a good job of it," said Horn. "And all basketball stuff aside but maybe the most important factor going in is they're a very confident team at home; they're 10-1 at home and their only loss is a Kentucky team where they were really in control of how the game was being played and had the game tied at the three minute mark to go. So I think from that standpoint it's going to be a game where we are going to have to play well. We're going to have to go in and do the things that we've been talking about and put ourselves in a position to win."

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