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#9 Auburn at South Carolina Game Preview and Open Thread

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Hello Top 10 AP Ranking!

NCAA Basketball: Louisiana State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Tuesday January 4th, 2022

Auburn Tigers at South Carolina Gamecocks

Colonial Life Arena - Columbia, South Carolina

Time: 5:30PM CT

Network: SEC Network, Auburn Radio Network

There’s no question last Wednesday was a huge win for Auburn knocking off previously undefeated LSU at home. But that was just the first of 18 SEC games that will be a gauntlet for this team. Tonight, they face their first road conference test.

Auburn heads to South Carolina, a place that hasn’t been too friendly to the Tigers over the years, despite last year’s 109 point outburst in the team’s matchup last season. The Tigers won 109-86 last season and Allen Flanigan led the charge with 24 points as Auburn shot 40-77 from the field and made 14 3s and 15-16 free throws on their way to a rout. Jaylin Williams also had 18 in that game.

The story around the SEC and most of College Basketball over the last week was the monster performance from Walker Kessler in Auburn’s win over LSU. Kessler had just the school’s 2nd ever triple-double, with 16 points, 11 blocks and 10 rebounds joining Kenny Gabriel in the triple-double club. Jabari Smith also had 16 points in his SEC debut and after an 18-1 start, LSU made their run but never could get closer than 6. Credit goes to KD Johnson for his energy and hustle plays that allowed Auburn to regain a double-digit lead in both halves.

Wendell Green also is thriving coming off the bench. While his only 3 came in the closing seconds Wednesday night, he had 15 points and 6 rebounds against LSU.

Auburn (12-1) also enters tonight’s game as part of the AP Top 10 for the 4th time in 5 seasons as Auburn climbed to #9 in this week’s poll. That said, it’s the first time this team will play a road game in the SEC and road wins in this league are going to be very hard to come by this season.

Get to Know South Carolina

South Carolina comes into tonight’s game at 9-3 with their previous game postponed due to COVID. Tonight is their first game since December 22nd and their SEC opener. The Gamecocks are averaging 75.3 PPG, allow 66.1 PPG and as a team, they shoot 32.3% from 3. They are 7-0 this season in Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina has had 13 guys average at least 10 minutes per game but the team has had several players in and out of the lineup for various reasons.

It’s a fairly balanced scoring attack for Frank Martin’s Gamecocks with 6 guys averaging between 9.1 and 11.3 PPG.

Leading the way is junior guard Jermaine Couisnard (#5) averaging 11.3 PPG so far this season. He is shooting 36.8% from 3-point range so far this season. He’s been dealing with an ankle injury and missed the last game but after a 2 week layoff, he’s ready to go for tonight’s game.

Next is senior guard Erik Stevenson (#10) who’s in his first year at South Carolina after transferring in from Washington via Wichita State. This season, he is averaging 10.9 PPG and 4.5 RPG. Stevenson has nearly double the 3-point attempts as the next closest Gamecock and he’s 19-74 on the season (25.7%).

In the frontcourt, South Carolina has been led so far this season by junior forward Wildens Leveque (#15). He should return tonight as well after missing the last 2 games and he is averaging 10.5 PPG and 6.2 RPG (team-leading) so far this season.

Freshmen guard Devin Cooper (#23) has been the top bench producer so far this season as he’s averaging 9.7 PPG this season.

Grad student guard James Reese (#0) is averaging 9.5 PPG and % wise is the team’s best 3-point shooter (with at least 20 attempts) at 42% from 3. He spent the last 2 seasons at North Texas before playing electing to play his final season in his home state.

Senior forward Keyshawn Bryant (#24) is averaging 9.1 PPG so far this season and is the team’s leading shot-blocker.

Junior guard Chico Carter (#2) played two seasons at Murray State before coming back to his hometown to play for South Carolina. Carter is averaging 6.6 PPG but is 9-17 from 3 so far this season.

Prediction

On paper, this certainly looks like a game that Auburn should be able to handle but I go back to my two thoughts above about recent history and the difficulty of winning on the road in this league. Auburn would be the first team to win a road SEC game if they win tonight with the home teams going 4-0 last week to start off conference play. It’s hard to gauge this South Carolina team because of the long break and guys in and out of the lineup but it sounds like they will be as close to full strength as they’ve been in awhile. Auburn should be at full-strength tonight as well with Allen Flanigan playing his 3rd game of the year and Devan Cambridge returning after missing last Wednesday’s game due to COVID. I think Auburn’s defense is up to the task and they’ll get out of Columbia with a road win.

Auburn 78 South Carolina 66