Everett: USC and Arkansas Look To Rebound
The teams are very familiar in size and playing style. The Razorbacks, after a slow start, find themselves atop the SEC West following a recent 5 game winning streak that ended with the loss to Alabama this past weekend. Arkansas is not as protective of its home arena as South Carolina, carrying an 11-7 home record, but they are 4-1 at home since entering conference play.
Both squads, coached by young coaches, Darrin Horn for South Carolina and John Pelphrey at Arkansas, rely on scoring from their sub six-foot point guards, and both teams like to run and turn up the tempo with defensive pressure. Both teams receive very little scoring from their reserves and will go 9 players deep in rotation. But that may be where the comparisons stop. Arkansas has been able to get balanced double digit scoring from four members of the starting line up: 5'11" Courtney Fortson averages 19.7 ppg, 6'0" Rotnei Clarke 16.1 ppg, 6'7" Marshawn Powell 14.8 ppg and 6'9" Mike Washington 12.7 ppg. With South Carolina getting the bulk of its scoring from 5'9" Devan Downey at 22.8 ppg and 6'2" Brandis Raley-Ross 11.0. Arkansas has been able to reel off 5 straight SEC victories this season, while South Carolina has only been able to post back to back victories in the conference this season.
Downey's ability to create problems for any team is well documented, but his recent 18-60 (26.7%) shooting would be considered a concern by most, but Coach Horn does not appear to be concerned over the percentages, just the effort and game ending results. Horn will be satisfied to challenge the home court advantage by Pelphrey's team by staying close and having a chance to take control late and win. Pelphrey, on the other hand, will try to keep Downey out of the paint, challenge the post players and make South Carolina win or die by the long ball. With Downey, expect Pelphrey to use the same philosophy of recent coaches, to make Downey work to get near the basket and force him well off the arc to score from beyond the imaginary NBA 3-point line.
Likewise, recent trends have watched South Carolina opponents' turnovers come way down, allowing less transition buckets and limiting extra possessions, which generally lead to more shots, something the Gamecocks will need if they are going to rely on the normal scoring trend to win in Arkansas. Sam Muldrow will need to get into the half court offense in this game to increase the Gamecock chances of winning, unless Lakeem Jackson can generate substantial offense in transition. If the Razorbacks get hot from the outside with its' three guard offense, this could be a long night for the Gamecocks, because the Arkansas post is an adequate transition and rebounding group that can score in the post in isolation.
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