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#16 Auburn at South Carolina Game Preview and Open Thread

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Auburn looks to bounce back after their tough loss to Kentucky.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Auburn John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Tuesday January 22nd

Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks

Location: Colonial Life Arena - Columbia, South Carolina

Time: 5:30PM

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

Get to Know South Carolina...

If you look at this game based on records, then you would think South Carolina is probably not very good. But despite coming in to this at 9-8 overall, the Gamecocks won their first 4 SEC games before losing at LSU on Saturday night. The Gamecocks played some tough teams in their non-conference schedule against the likes of Virginia, Michigan and Clemson so they’re battle tested to say the least.

South Carolina comes into this game averaging 74.9 points a game while giving up 72.4 points a game. Despite the rough start to the season, Frank Martin has this team playing hard and playing well right now. The Gamecocks have several talented freshman on their roster and one of them is the team’s leading scorer.

Guard (#00) A.J. Lawson is a 6’6” Canadian averaging 13.6 points a game this season. He leads the team in 3-pointers attempted this season as well. His assist-to-turnover ratio though is just above 1 though and that will be a key for Auburn’s defense to force him into turnovers. Sticking with the freshman theme for now, another one to watch tonight is forward (#24) Keyshawn Bryant. He is 4th on the team in scoring at 9.7 points a game but is averaging about 13 in his last 3 games and his Field Goal % in those 3 games is 60%.

While we gave the freshman some love to start this preview, it’s time to look at the seniors. I’m surprised I got this far in the preview without mentioning senior Chris Silva (#30). The forward’s numbers are a little down this year but he’s still 2nd on the team in scoring at 11.9 points a game and leads the team in rebounding with 6.4 of those a game. After playing just 8 minutes on Saturday before fouling out, I fully expect Silva to have a big game for the Gamecocks. One other player to keep an eye on is guard (#2) Hassani Gravett. He is team’s best 3-point shooter at 40.8% and is 3rd on the team in scoring averaging 11.5 points a game.

One other play I wanted to highlight was junior forward (#21) Malik Kotsar. At 6’11” and 264 pounds, he will have a huge size advantage in the paint in tonight’s matchup. He’s averaging 8.5 points a game but scored 25 points and had 9 rebounds in their win over Mississippi State earlier this month.

What to Look for from Auburn...

While Saturday was a tough pill to swallow, Auburn now has to turn the page and try to duplicate the successes they had on the road last week at Texas A&M. We talked about assist to turnover ratio above and Jared Harper’s is at a 3:1 assist-to-turnover ratio at the moment. Despite Ashton Hagans playing really good defense on Harper, Jared still managed to score 17 points and had 6 assists, both around his season averages. Auburn will need a big game from him tonight.

Bryce Brown made it look easy in the second half against Kentucky Saturday scoring 25 of his 28 points in that half. Hopefully for Auburn, he will be able to score in both halves as the guards will have to take on a bigger scoring load with Austin Wiley out for a few weeks. He has to shoot the ball more than 2 times in a half like he did in the first half Saturday.

One player I look to play well tonight is Malik Dunbar who plays in his home state tonight. Dunbar is from North Augusta, about an hour away from Columbia, and had 10 points and 7 rebounds against Kentucky. Other than his 2-point outing against Texas A&M, Dunbar has scored 11, 11, and 10 in SEC play so far. We’ll see what Classic Malik moments we get this evening.

Auburn returns to the building where last season everything changed for Auburn. They lost Anfernee McLemore to his injury in the South Carolina game last year and the team simply wasn’t the same. Now McLemore returns to that building and has to play better than he did on Saturday. In fairness, he had an extremely difficult matchup against the Wildcats while also dealing with foul trouble. With a shorter bench, the Auburn bigs have to do a better job about not picking up cheap fouls that we saw against the Wildcats.

Score Prediction

Auburn looks to win their 2nd straight road game tonight but will have their hands full against a group that will challenge the Tigers on the interior. Like in any game, Auburn has to make their 3s in order to put themselves in position to win. I like Jared Harper to go for 20+ tonight and Auburn to get the job done in Columbia tonight.

Auburn 77 South Carolina 69