Gamecocks return home to host UGA
The Bulldogs are the only team in the SEC without a conference win, and are losers of nine straight. Georgia fired coach Dennis Felton, and Saturday will be interim coach Pete Herrmann's third game since taking over. The Bulldogs are still an SEC team, and Darrin Horn wasted no time in returning to his mantra that "there are no easy games in league play."
"The one constant for them, for Georgia teams, is they play really hard," said Horn. "As a coach, it's coaching nature to be more concerned because we have not accomplished anything yet, and this is a team that's more than capable of coming into your place and beating you."
Georgia is led by forwards Terrance Woodbury and Trey Thompkins, who average 13.3 and 13.0 points per game, respectively. They are the only Bulldogs averaging in double figures; every other player averages 6.8 points or less. A freshman, Thompkins is also Georgia's leading rebounder at 6.7 boards per contest. Not surprisingly, Georgia's offensive statistics are pretty ugly. They score 65.4 points per game and shoot only 41.9% from the field, and are one of only two teams that shoot worse from the free throw line than South Carolina (62.3%). Georgia is better defensively, allowing opponents to shoot just 41.8%, thanks to its good size and length, and that has Horn's attention.
"This is a team that presents some challenges for us because they're extremely physical and they're big," he said. "They always play hard. The important thing for us is coming out and focusing on the things we need to do well to be successful."
The Gamecocks are coming off a disappointing 97-93 loss at Florida. Carolina had a chance at the end thanks to Devan Downey's heroics, but would have had more of a chance had it shot better than 10-22 (45.5%) from the free throw line. Horn refuses to say publicly that the poor free throw shooting is a problem, saying the real concern is that the Gators shot 18 more free throws. However, contributing to the gap were three straight missed front ends of one and ones by Carolina and the end of game intentional fouling by the Gamecocks. Dominique Archie, who shoots 60.5% from the line, acknowledged that the poor shooting is a concern and that Horn has spoken with him.
"He just told me that sometimes it doesn't seem like I'm set and ready to shoot, but I've been practicing that the last couple of days," Archie said.
As of this writing, there were less than 100 tickets available for the game, plus 500 student tickets held at the door for students. Operation Sellout is the follow-up to the very successful Garnet Army promotion for students. Attendance has been a problem at Carolina for years, as fan support waned under former coach Dave Odom. Despite Horn pleading for more support, there was little change for the first half of this season. That changed with Carolina's thrilling last second win over Florida on January 21.
That game saw the debut of the "Garnet Army" student section with t-shirts and free food, and for the first time this season, the student section was full. The rest of the fans began to show up following that win, but the Colonial Life Arena has yet to come close to filling its 18,000 seats. The fact that the Gamecocks can even attempt that feat is good progress for Horn.
"Hopefully what it means is there's some excitement around our program," he said. "Together, with a great atmosphere and with a full house, our fans will help us to build something that we can be proud of and want to support."
In fact, USC has declared a full house only once since opening the arena in 2002. On March 3, 2004, against Kentucky, official attendance is listed as 18,000. The Gamecocks have had eight other games that were practically sellouts and attendance topped 17,000, but none since 2006 (also against Kentucky). A redshirt junior, Archie witnessed, but did not play in, that game. He is aware of the promotion, but did not seem fully convinced 18,000 would show up.
"It's something to look forward to, but you never know. Some people buy tickets and don't go," he said. "Hopefully everybody who bought tickets will go."
- This game was supposed to be the beginning of a rivalry between Felton and Horn, who both came to the SEC from Western Kentucky and have a frosty relationship. Felton's firing deprived sportswriters on both sides of plenty of material for an otherwise nondescript game.
- Georgia leads the all-time series between the two schools 46-44. Each team won on its home court last season, and Georgia has won five of six in the series.
- Tipoff is at 5:00 PM. The game will be televised by FSN.
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