Date: Wednesday January 22nd
Opponent: South Carolina Gamecocks
Location: Auburn Arena
Network: ESPNU, Auburn Radio Network
It was a tough week for Auburn on the road losing a pair of games to Alabama and Florida for their first 2 losses of the year. Having watched this year narrowly grind out games for weeks, last week was bound to happen, however, I know that getting blown out twice was cause for some concern by some. The Tigers struggled mightily to shoot the ball, among other things, setting season lows in points in both games last week. Gone is the undefeated talk as well as the Top 10 ranking and now Auburn can look to move forward and start a new winning streak tonight at home.
Before we take a look at the Gamecocks, remember what happened the last time South Carolina came to Auburn Arena....
As the great Rod Bramblett said:
“6,995 days have passed since Auburn a Southeastern Conference Championship. The number is now 0.”
Get to Know South Carolina
As a team, South Carolina averages 69.9 PPG while giving up 66.1 PPG. They shoot 30.9% from 3 as a team.
The good news for Auburn is they won’t have to worry about Chris Silva for this one, who absolutely torched the Tigers throughout his career, and is now playing for the Miami Heat in the NBA. In 2 games against Auburn last year, Silva averaged 29.5 PPG and 12.5 RPG.
South Carolina comes into town winners of their last 2 games including a win over Kentucky last Wednesday in Columbia on a buzzer-beating banked-in 3 pointer.
SOUTH CAROLINA BEATS KENTUCKY AT THE BUZZER pic.twitter.com/pqlWPIKO7w— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 16, 2020
They won their last game on Saturday at Texas A&M as well, avoiding the post-Kentucky letdown. The Gamecocks have beaten Kentucky, won in Charlottesville against Virginia and won at Clemson. However, they also have losses at home against Boston University and Stetson. My point: it’s been up and down in Columbia for Frank Martin’s group this year.
Sophomore Guard A.J. Lawson (#00) - 13.8 PPG
With Silva gone, A.J. Lawson has become the go-to guy in Columbia. The Canadian had an opportunity to be a 1-and-done guy but elected to return to South Carolina for his sophomore season. Lawson had just 7 points total in the 2 games against the Tigers last season and they all came in the matchup in Columbia. He played limited minutes in the SEC Tournament against Auburn after missing the previous 2 1⁄2 weeks due to an ankle injury. He’s averaging just 8.5 PPG in 4 SEC games so far but scored 13 his last time out against Texas A&M.
Redshirt Freshmen Guard Jermaine Couisnard (#5) - 10.6 PPG
While Lawson has struggled early in league play, Couisnard has flourished. Frank Martin inserted him into the starting lineup last Wednesday against Kentucky and he had a career-high 26 points, including the buzzer beater you saw earlier in the preview. After missing the SEC opener against Florida, Jermaine is averaging 19.3 PPG over his last 3 games. Over that stretch, he is 9-20 from 3 (45%).
Senior Forward Maik Kotsar (#21) - 9.8 PPG, 6.4 RPG
Kotsar is the only player left on South Carolina’s roster who went to the Final Four back in 2017. At 6’11”, 270 pounds, he’ll be a key matchup for the Auburn bigs in this one. The senior from Estonia had 18 and 17 points against Florida and Tennessee respectively but scored just 6 points in his last 2 games.
Junior Guard Jair Bolden (#52) - 9.7 PPG
Bolden is playing his first year in Columbia after sitting out last year after transferring in from George Washington. He had 19 points and 6 rebounds on Saturday against Texas A&M and made 5 3-pointers. He had 22 points in their win at Virginia. Auburn has given up points to team’s 3rd-4th leading scorers consistently this year so this is a guy I would be aware of. He’s also shooting 41.4% from 3 this season.
Sophomore Forward Keyshawn Bryant (#24) - 8.3 PPG
Bryant is questionable for tonight’s game after an mid-court collision took him out of the game after playing just 3 minutes in against Texas A&M. He missed the first 8 games due to recovering from a knee injury. Bryant had a season high 15 points against Kentucky.
Sophomore Forward Justin Minaya (#10) - 7.4 PPG, 5.9 RPG
The other starting forward for South Carolina is Justin Minaya. MInaya missed most of last season and was able to receive a medical redshirt. He played all 40 minutes in College Station and had a season-high 18 points, along with 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Keys For Auburn
Plain and simple: the Tigers have to shoot the ball better. They had several 3-pointers rattle out down in Gainesville early on Saturday but towards the end of the game, Auburn couldn’t buy a basket. After Samir Doughty’s 3 had cut it to 49-43 with 8:40 to go, Auburn missed their last 9 shots of the game and the Gators finished the game on a 20-4 run.
In Tuscaloosa, they shot 20-63 (31.7%) from the field and 7-28 from 3 (25%).
In Gainesville, even worse. They shot 14-55 (25.5%) from the field and 4-23 from 3 (17.4%). Auburn had only 8 turnovers Saturday after tying their season-high with 21 last Wednesday.
Hopefully, the comforts of home will help the shooting woes.
This is a massive game for Auburn as they look to get back on track. There’s no question they got exposed last week, and many in the national media feel vindicated by the things they've said about Auburn this year as they’ve criticized their schedule, among other things this year. In fact, these next 3 games are quite frankly, games Auburn really need to win. After tonight, Auburn hosts Iowa State on Saturday and then travel to Ole Miss, who is 0-5 in the SEC, next Tuesday. Looking beyond then: the following 3 games are really tough with Kentucky, at Arkansas and LSU on the horizon. I’m expecting a bounce back game from Auburn and I look for Isaac Okoro to be more involved on the offensive end this evening. South Carolina will keep this game close throughout but in the end, I think Auburn, at home, is able to pull this game out.
Auburn 74 South Carolina 66