GAME NOTES: The South Carolina Gamecocks will continue their season-long three-game homestand on Monday night, as they welcome the Marshall Thundering Herd to Colonial Life Arena for a non-conference matchup.
Marshall has suffered a lackluster 5-7 record this season because of its large differential between success at home (5-2) and failure on the road (0-4). The Herd are sliding of late with losses in five of their last six contests, which includes a heartbreaking 83-82 setback to Arkansas State on Dec. 21.
South Carolina opened up its homestand on Saturday night with a dominating 78-45 triumph over Akron, its second straight win over the Zips after also beating them on Christmas Day in the Diamond Head Classic in Hawaii (69-59). The Gamecocks are now winners of three of their last four and are attempting to get back to .500 for the first time since they were 2-2.
The Gamecocks lead the all-time series over Marshall, 3-2, but the teams haven't squared off since the 1980-81 season.
The Herd appeared down for the count early in their most recent contest, as they trailed Arkansas State at home by 18 points early in the second half, but they showed great fight and battled all the way back to tie the game with 41 seconds left on a Ryan Taylor 3-pointer. Unfortunately, ASU answered back with a long-range bucket of its own on its next possession to put the game away. Although they shot just 38.6 percent from the field, four players registered in double figures, led by great efforts from Kareem Canty (22 points) and TyQuane Goard (21 points), with Goard making his a double-double with 13 rebounds. Chris Thomas netted 14 points, while Taylor chipped in 13.
Marshall's offensive output this season has been great, as it shoots 47.7 percent from the field for 85.8 ppg, although those numbers are inflated somewhat thanks to scoring a combined 240 points in two wins over lower-level programs Rio Grande and Alice Lloyd. With leading scorer Elijah Pittman (21.4 ppg) suspended indefinitely, Canty (17.8 ppg) has taken over as the go-to guy while also finding time to rank fifth in the nation is assists (7.3 pg). Taylor (12.5 ppg, 7.0 rpg) and Thomas (12.3 ppg) are impressive in their own right.
Although South Carolina only led by six at the half of its latest game versus Akron, it opened up the second half on a 23-3 run to put the game well out of reach. It shot a respectable 44.4 percent from the field on the afternoon (including 8-of-15 from 3-point range) and earned several extra possessions by winning both the rebounding (34-27) and the turnover (21-7) battles. Brenton Williams paced the effort with 24 points, shooting 6-of-9 from 3-point range. Michael Carrera tallied 13 points and seven rebounds in just 18 minutes off the bench, while Mindaugas Kacinas poured in 11 points.
Despite their losing record this season, the Gamecocks still barely outscore (68.5 ppg) their opponents (67.9 ppg). They boast a +3.5 rebounding margin and have outstanding field-goal percentage defense (.411). The balanced squad has eight players who score at least 5.5 ppg, led by Sindarius Thornwell (11.7 ppg). Tyrone Johnson (10.6 ppg) and Williams (9.8 ppg) are also regular contributors, although all three of South Carolina's top scorers come in at under 39 percent field goal shooting.
Something's got to give when Marshall's high-scoring offense goes up against South Carolina's stout defense. Expect the Gamecocks to conquer this one at home and keep the Herd winless on the road.
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