Gamecocks Look to Continue Winning Ways

The Gamecocks (14-4, 3-2 SEC) will look to sweep their three game home stand with a win over Vanderbilt (12-7, 1-4 SEC) Wednesday night. The teams come in on opposite tracks, with Carolina riding a two game winning streak, and the Commodores having lost three straight games.

The two game winning streak for Carolina has created all sorts of "first time since…" statistics. The Gamecocks are over .500 in the SEC for the first time since February 5, 2005, when they were 5-4 following a win over Georgia. Carolina is looking for its first three game conference winning streak since 2006. Carolina has also equaled its win total of the past two seasons. The consecutive conference wins are also something that never happened last year.

"I thought we had at least won two in a row last year, but we didn't," said Devan Downey. "It shows we're making progress."

When he was hired, Darrin Horn spoke about the importance of protecting the home court. Toward that end, Carolina has made a push to increase overall attendance at Colonial Life Arena, specifically in the student section. After three conference games, the results have been positive. The Gamecocks are 3-0 at home, and attendance is noticeably better than it has been in recent times. When asked if he still reminds the team about the importance of winning at home, Horn downplayed the matter. However, Downey and Austin Steed told a different story.

"That's all he talks about," said Downey. "Don't lose at home, that's our mindset."

"We've got to take care of home," said Steed. "Being at home gives us a chance to be successful in the SEC."

While Carolina comes in riding high, Vanderbilt is somewhere on the opposite end of the spectrum. Not only have the Commodores lost three straight, but the last loss was a 94-69 home blowout at the hands of Florida. However, Horn is not putting too much stock in that outcome. The Gators shot lights out, going 12-18 from behind the arc and scoring 56 points in the first half, finishing the game shooting 60% from three and 57.4% from the field.

"I don't think that that [game] is anywhere near indicative of the Vanderbilt team that I've seen on all the other films and what they're capable of," said Horn. "Florida played a great game. It looked like Vanderbilt was not at its best."

The all time series between South Carolina and Vanderbilt is tied 21-21, but the Commodores have had the upper hand of late. Vanderbilt has won five straight against the Gamecocks, including a 66-65 win in Columbia last season that came on a basket by Jermaine Beal with 0.6 seconds remaining. Beal returns for the Commodores, averaging 11.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists, but he is one of the few returning players, with stars like Shan Foster and Alex Gordon having used up their eligibility. However, Horn still sees a dangerous Commodores team thanks to their athleticism and head coach, Kevin Stallings.

"They have their most athletic talent that they've had in a while," he said. "There's not a better coach in the country than Kevin Stallings, in terms of getting the most out of his team. They do what they have to do every year to be good. I would expect they would continue to do that, we don't want it to happen against us."

In addition to Beal, center AJ Oglivy returns for Vanderbilt. Last year as a freshman, Oglivy averaged 17 points per game and he was named to the preseason All-SEC team prior to this year. He is still averaging 15.1 points per game and 6.5 rebounds per game, but Oglivy has been hampered by a heel injury that cost him two games earlier this season. More recently, the Australian came down with a respiratory infection that held him to 15 minutes of action against Florida. It is unknown how the illness will affect his availability against the Gamecocks, but if he plays he will be a big concern.

"AJ's a great player," Downey said. "He's one of the best, not only big guys, players in the league. I'm pretty sure Mike [Holmes], Sam [Muldrow], and Dominique [Archie], those guys are going to come ready to play."

"He's a good player. Last year he came in and did very well in the SEC," said Steed. "Even if he's out, we're still going to come in and follow our game plan."

Notes:

- Guard Branden Conrad continues to be out indefinitely with a broken foot. His foot is still in a cast, and he cannot begin to rehab the foot until the cast is off.

- Tipoff is at 7:00 PM. The game will not be televised.

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