Auburn (7-7) at South Carolina (10-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, January 12, 1:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Colonial Life Arena (18,000) -- Columbia, South Carolina. Television: SEC Network. Home Record: Auburn 6-3, South Carolina 7-2. Away Record: Auburn 0-1, South Carolina 0-2. Neutral Record: Auburn 1-3, South Carolina 3-0. Conference Record: Auburn 1-0, South Carolina 0-1. Series Record: Auburn leads, 19-14.
GAME NOTES: The Auburn Tigers attempt to win their third straight game on Saturday afternoon, as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in SEC action at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia.
Auburn has been playing some of its best basketball of the season in the new year, registering a defeat of Florida State (78-72) on Jan. 2, and most recently winning its SEC opener against LSU, 68-63. By winning five of their last seven games, the Tigers have climbed back to .500 at 7-7, although they haven't fared well away from home, combining to go just 1-4 in road and neutral-site games.
Frank Martin's first season as head coach at South Carolina has already been a rousing success, as its 10 wins is already as many as it had during the entire 2011-12 campaign. The Gamecocks had won a season-high five straight games entering their SEC opener at Mississippi State on Wednesday night, but they dropped a heartbreaker, 56-54.
Auburn has won two straight against South Carolina over the past two seasons to a take a 19-14 lead in the all-time series.
After trailing LSU at intermission, Auburn put together a stellar second half on Wednesday, shooting 53.8 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes to pull away for the victory. Allen Payne was the catalyst in the win, scoring 15 points on 7-of-12 shooting from the field. Shaquille Johnson tallied 11 points and nine rebounds, while Frankie Sullivan had an off night by his standards (3-of-10 from the floor), but still finished with 10 points. On the season, the Tigers haven't been especially strong at the offensive end (68.9 ppg), and while they allow just 64.6 ppg, their scoring defense ranks ninth in the highly-competitive SEC. Sullivan currently sits as the league's third- leading scorer at 17.2 ppg, and while his field goal percentage leaves plenty to be desired (.397), he has converted 60-of-72 attempts from the foul line (.833). With Chris Denson (15.2 ppg) expected to miss at least another month with a foot injury, Auburn has been looking to Rob Chubb (9.3 ppg, 7.4 rpg) and Payne (8.4 ppg) for increased production.
South Carolina held a 50-48 lead with 4:23 left in its bout against Mississippi State earlier in the week, but it managed to score just four points down the stretch as the Bulldogs surged by for the win. The Gamecocks were aided by a career-high 20 points for Brian Richardson, and although he made just 7-of-19 from the field, he drilled five 3-pointers and added eight rebounds and two steals for good measure. Bruce Ellington chipped in with 11 points, but he was also guilty of nine of the team's 24 turnovers. USC has found success this season behind one of the league's most efficient offensive attacks, as it makes good on 45.5 percent of its field goal attempts for 72.6 ppg, but it is also hampered by the conference's 13th-ranked scoring defense (68.1 ppg). The Gamecocks rely on a deep bench, as eight players average at least 4.9 ppg. Brenton Williams leads the way with 12.3 ppg on 52.9 percent field goal shooting, while Michael Carrera, Lakeem Jackson, Ellington and Richardson all net between 9.4 and 10.0 ppg. They are also aided by the league's second-best rebounding margin (plus-9.4).
The Gamecocks' latest performance was certainly a disappointing one, especially against a lackluster Mississippi State squad, but expect them to bounce back playing at home against an Auburn squad that has yet to prove itself on the road.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 73, Auburn 67
01/12 10:33:13 ET