The South Carolina Gamecocks come into their second meeting with the Commodores off two road losses, 79-66 at Georgia and 96-63 at Florida. They have been an up-and-down team, winning five in a row at the beginning of the season, and later running off four consecutive victories before losing to Georgia and Florida. But they also had a seven-game losing streak in January and early February, and they now find themselves with an overall 11-13 record, 4-9 in conference play.
The Gamecocks usually play good defense, but they have given up a lot of points in the last two games, especially against Florida. The Gators probably played their best game of the season, including twelve 3-pointers, and South Carolina was overwhelmed.
With 6-10 senior Marius Petravicius lost for the season due to an injury, South Carolina has been relying on six players for most of the scoring and minutes. They are 6-7 sophomore Carlos Powell (12.7 ppg), 6-7 senior Chuck Eidson (11.5 ppg), 6-9 junior Rolando Howell (10.0 ppg), 6-10 senior Tony Kitchings (9.9 ppg), 6-8 junior Kerbrell Brown (9.6 ppg) and 6-5 senior Chris Warren (8.9 ppg). Three freshmen (6-6 Terance Kinsey; 6-6 Marcus Morrison; 6-1 Jarod Gerald) also get into the games, as does 6-2 junior Michael Boynton. Lately, 6-10 sophomore John Chappell has been playing a little. Boynton (2.7 ppg) was expected to be an important cog in the machine, but has been a disappointment.
Ordinarily South Carolina is a weak outside shooting team, but they connected on 7-of-11 3-point attempts in the 84-72 victory over Vanderbilt on Feb. 8. No one averages more than 1.3 threes per game. Warren has made 43% of his long shots, but Powell, Eidson, and Brown are all at about 30%.
Eidson is the playmaker (4.5 assists per game) and the third-leading rebounder (4.8 rpg). Howell, who has never quite blossomed into the force that he was expected to be, grabs six boards per game and Kitchings (who has missed eight games because of injury) pulls off 5.5.
The Gamecocks have plenty of size and strength, but not a great deal of speed and quickness. No one doubts the ability of Coach Dave Odom to get the most from his players, but he is a couple of SEC-level guards short of having a strong team. If he could have swapped Boynton and Gerald for Timmy Bowers and Derek Zimmerman of Mississippi State before the season began, South Carolina might be as good as any team in the conference.
Despite Vanderbilt's six-game losing streak, the Commodores have a good chance to win. They have defeated South Carolina twice in their last three games in Columbia and might have won the other but for a cold spell late in a game that they were dominating. This will be their first visit to the new 17,600-seat Carolina Center.
South Carolina figures to win at home by five to eight points, but in a game involving two such inconsistent teams, anything might happen.