South Carolina men’s basketball (8-7, 3-0 SEC) will travel to Nashville to take on the Vanderbilt Commodores (9-6, 0-3 SEC) on Wednesday.
This is the third season in program history that the Gamecocks have started 3-0 in the SEC. The two previous times were in 1997, which led to a regular season SEC championship, and 2017, which resulted in the school’s first Final Four appearance.
The Gamecocks are currently tied for first place in the SEC standings with Tennessee and Ole Miss. Despite a better overall record than South Carolina, Vanderbilt is in last place and is on a three-game losing streak with losses to Ole Miss, Georgia and Kentucky.
South Carolina is riding a four-game winning streak. Even with a 5-7 record entering SEC play, the Gamecocks have earned wins over Florida on the road, then No. 14 Mississippi State and Missouri.
Head coach Frank Martin credits the freshmen for adapting to the team well and contributing to the team’s success in conference play.
“It takes time, and we had eight new faces,” Martin said. “I gotta understand them, they gotta understand me... we collectively have to understand how these kids learn.”
Vanderbilt leads South Carolina in points per game, rebounds per game and field goal percentage by small margins, while South Carolina edges the Commodores in assists per game, blocks per game and steals per game. Therefore, defense will be one of the main keys to victory for South Carolina.
“I think we're starting to defend better,” Martin said. “We're starting to play a little stronger. I think you're starting to see us shoot free throws, which we didn’t do earlier in the year.”
Forward Chris Silva leads the Gamecocks in points and rebounds this season, averaging 12.9 points per game and 6.9 rebounds per game. A.J. Lawson leads South Carolina in assists, with 3.2 assists per game.
Tip-off is set for 7 p.m. on SEC Network.