Missouri State (2-2) vs. South Carolina (3-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 24, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center (300) -- Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Television: None. Home Record: MSU 2-2, South Carolina 3-1. Away Record: MSU 0-0, South Carolina 0-0. Neutral Record: MSU 0-0, South Carolina 0-0. Conference Record: MSU 0-0, South Carolina 0-0. Series Record: South Carolina leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Missouri State Bears and the South Carolina Gamecocks will meet in the semifinals of the Hoops for Hope Classic on Saturday night at the Puerto Vallarta International Convention Center.
The winner will advance to the championship game to play either SMU or Arkansas-Little Rock on Sunday, with the losers facing off in the third-place game.
Missouri State spent its first four games at home, coming out 2-2. After an opening win over Philander Smith (89-61), the Bears dropped back-to-back games to nationally-ranked San Diego State (60-44) and Jacksonville (64-58) before qualifying for the tournament with a win over Malone, 82-49.
The Frank Martin era in South Carolina got off to a fast start with wins over Milwaukee (82-75 in OT), Morgan State (87-71), and Rider (88-76). The Gamecocks slipped up in their last game before traveling to Mexico however, earning their first loss of the season at home against Elon, 65-53.
South Carolina won the only previous meeting between these two squads, 77-64, in November of 2003.
The secret to Missouri State's early-season success has been its fantastic play on the defensive end, as it has held three of its four opponents to under 35 percent field goal shooting. In addition to holding Malone to a lowly 49 points the last time out, the Bears put together their best offensive effort since the opener, shooting 48.5 percent from the floor, including 47.6 percent from three-point range. Anthony Downing, Marcus Marshall, and Christian Kirk led the way with 15 points apiece. Marshall and Downing combined to shoot a lights-out 7-of-10 from beyond the arc, and Kirk also grabbed eight rebounds in 19 minutes off the bench. The efficient performance was a departure for MSU, which shoots just over 40 percent on the young season. Downing (14.5 ppg) has made just 35.4 percent of his three-pointers, and Kirk (10.8 ppg) is the only other player to average double-digits.
South Carolina's offense got off to a hot start, scoring at least 82 points in each of its first three games, but it ran into a wall the last time out against Elon, making just 18-of-56 field goal attempts while committing 22 turnovers in the double-digit loss. Lakeem Jackson was the lone Gamecock that put together an efficient performance with 14 points on 7-of-13 from the floor while adding 10 rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. It wasn't a typical night for South Carolina, as it's shooting 45.8 percent from the field over its first four games and outscoring its opponents by nearly six points per game. However, the turnovers have been a problem all year long as they commit more than 19 per game. Brenton Williams leads the team with 14.8 ppg, while connecting on 41.2 percent of his three-pointers and 90 percent of his free throws. LaShay Page (13.8 ppg) and Jackson (12.0 ppg, 7.8 rpg) are also off to good starts.
The lapse at home against Elon was a head-scratcher for South Carolina, especially considering the quality opponents it was able to take care of in its first three games. One game does not make a trend however, and the Gamecocks should be able to muster up enough offense to power past the Bears and into the championship round.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: South Carolina 70, Missouri State 65
11/24 10:33:05 ET