The Gamecocks dropped a 64-65 game at No. 6 Kentucky last Saturday. Mississippi State defeated Ole Miss 80-56 with the largest crowd in Humphrey Coliseum history (10,735).
Mississippi State, 19-1 and 9-1 in the SEC, have only lost to Kentucky (66-67). The Bulldogs are coached by sixth-year head coach Rick Sansbury. The Bulldogs were 21-10 last season and posted a 9-7 record in SEC play. They lost to Kentucky in the SEC Tournament final and advanced to the NCAA Tournament first round, losing to Butler 46-47. They return two starters and seven letterwinners.
Something in common Mississippi State enters Wednesday's match-up with a 19-1 and 8-1 mark in the SEC. USC is 4-3 against MSU opponents, while MSU is 7-1 against those same teams (played Ole Miss twice). The Bulldog's lone loss came against Kentucky 67-66 in Starkville. The Gamecocks are coming off a one point loss to Kentucky in Lexington.
US vs. THEM
The Bulldogs lead the overall series 8-5 and have won the last two games against Carolina. The last meeting in Columbia was in the 2001-02 season with Mississippi State taking a 64-57 win. The series is tied 3-3 in Columbia. USC's last win against the Bulldogs came in the 2000-01 season with a 69-62 win in Nashville, in the SEC Tournament.
Because Black is always in style
On his radio show last Thursday Coach Dave Odom was asked about the idea of a Blackout for the Mississippi State game. Coach Odom embraced the idea, saying he supports anything that creates unity. The student body, including junior Michael Arthur, who has taken the ball, literally and run with it - dubbed Wednesday's game Blackout night.
"Will this improve our shooting percentage? Will it cause more blocks? Steals? Or lower our fouls? No," said Arthur, a Political Science major (email@example.com) "What it will do is send the Gamecock faithful, and our team, into a frenzy of intensity and noise as a Bulldog welcome. The fan intensity will not be limited to the students alone as we hope all fans embrace the idea."
"More over, black gives us identity," said Arthur. "We have an opportunity to stand out, a chance to truly make the Colonial Center a place where other teams don't want to play."
USC Head Coach Dave Odom and Mississippi State Head Coach Rick Sansbury both spoke to the media via the SEC tele-conference on Monday.
"We're coming off a really disappointing loss to Kentucky," said Odom. "Kentucky executed on every single possession. We were a little bit disoriented on a few of those possessions. You have to give Kentucky credit. On the plane ride home, our team was appropriately down. Mississippi State doesn't need any help, so what we need to do is shake the Kentucky loss as quickly as we can. Hopefully we have the reservoir of energy that we'll need to win the basketball game Wednesday night. Mississippi State is at the top of the league; they are really an excellent basketball team."
"Like always on the road, it's never easy," said Stansbury. "We're going on the road to play one of the most difficult teams in the league. We'll be in a very difficult environment, but we're looking forward to playing the game."
(On depth) "I think there's no question, you can see we're not playing very many people at all," continued Stansbury. "We have to continue to develop. It's one area I really feel we have to continue to find ways to put some people in that eighth and ninth spot."
One Month and counting
USC remained in the nation's top 25 this week for the fourth straight week. USC is No. 25 in the Associated Press poll, after peaking at No. 24 two weeks ago.
As of Monday, Feb. 9, USC is ranked No. 18 in the Sagarin ratings with its SOS ranking at 155 - both season highs. On collegerpi.com, USC is ranked No. 42 with a SOS of 121 - both season highs. On Sportsline.com, USC's RPI is No. 41 and its strength of schedule is rated at 148 - both season highs
Let's leave the past alone
Last season, the Bulldogs defeated the Gamecocks 64-48 in Starkville. The Gamecocks shot 21.7% (5 of 23) from the field in the first half and were down 31-19 at the half. For the entire game, the Gamecocks shot 27.5% from the field and went 3 of 15 from behind the arch. Only three USC players scored in double figures: Tony Kitchings (12), Chuck Eidson (12), and Kerbrell Brown (15). Carlos Powell scored only two points and Rolando Howell had five. Eidson went 10 of 11 from the free throw line. Mississippi State shot 46.2% from the floor in the first half and then shot 52.2% from the floor in the second half to shoot 49% overall.
The East's Newcomer of the Year
While Lawrence Roberts is wooing folks on the Western Division side of the SEC, the Eastern Division side has been getting to know Carolina junior Josh Gonner, who came to USC this year from Hutchinson Community College in Kansas.
He has scored in double figures every SEC game. In addition he has scored more than 20 points or more three times against SEC foes: vs. Tennessee (a career high 24 points), Ole MIss (20 points) and Alabama (22 points). In his short career at Carolina, he has scored in double figures 14 times in 21 games.
He also said hello to the ACC with 13 points in the 76-61 win at Clemson and then dropped 19 points in the 58-55 home win over N.C. State.
Josh Gonner continued to light it up as he scored 22 points last Wednesday night making it his third game of the season with 20+ points. The junior college transfer was five of 11 from the floor but hit nine of 10 from the free throw line. In SEC games, Gonner is averaging 16.8 points a game.
Against Ole Miss the junior had his second straight game with career-high five steals. He is currently second on the team in steals with 31 and second in ppg with 12.1. He scored a team-high 22 points in the 90-82 OT win over Alabama last Wednesday.
Free throws: sometimes good, sometimes bad
This season, USC has had its highs and lows on the free throw line. The Gamecocks have hit 70% or better from the line eight times. In those eight games, they are 7-1. The lone loss came against Mississippi in Oxford. The Gamecocks are shooting 66% from the line while their opponents are shooting 68%.
The Gamecocks have played four home SEC games so far and have a record of 3-1. The only loss came against the Gators in the SEC opener on January 7. All three games have seen a packed crowd in the Colonial Center as 15,042 or more have packed the Center in those four games. (15,042 vs. Florida; 17,806 vs. Tennessee; 17,927 vs. LSU; and 16,227 vs. Alabama). The LSU crowd of 17,927 was the largest crowd to ever see a basketball game in the state of South Carolina and the first pre-game day sell out.
Let's hope the first impression lasts
The Gamecocks are 21-4 against teams visiting the Colonial Center for the first time. USC is 6-4 against SEC Opponents coming to the Colonial Center for the first time. The four losses were last year to Auburn, Florida, Kentucky, and Georgia while the Gamecocks defeated Arkansas, Tennessee, Vanderbilt, and Mississippi. The only SEC team that had not came to play USC in the Colonial Center is Mississippi State (2/11).
We built it, they did come
Since building the Colonial Center, USC has played 28 basketball games in it. Out of the 28 games, 18 have had games with an attendance of 10,000 or more. In those 18 games, USC is 13-5 playing in front of 10,000 or more people in the Colonial Center.
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