The South Carolina men's basketball team travels to College Station this Tuesday for the second matchup of the year against Texas A&M.
Two and a half weeks ago the Gamecocks made a second half comeback to beat the Aggies at Colonial Life Arena 84-77. Senior forward Chris Silva and freshman guard A.J. Lawson put up a combined 45 points to lead South Carolina to the victory.
But this time Texas A&M will be playing a different, injury-riddled team.
The Gamecocks felt the loss of A.J. Lawson in their most recent game vs Missouri, having shot only 40 percent from the field and 21 percent from behind the arc as a team.
Scoring was much harder to come by. The Gamecocks' only significant sources of offense were 15 points from freshman forward Keyshawn Bryant, 20 points from senior guard Hassani Gravett and 12 points from Silva before he fouled out after just 15 minutes of playing.
Texas A&M comes in hot, having won three of its last four games against Alabama, Arkansas and Vanderbilt. The Aggies are led by junior guard Wendell Mitchell and sophomore guard/forward Savion Flagg, averaging 13.4 and 12.8 points respectively. In their most recent game against Vanderbilt, Flagg led the Aggies in the scoring department, dropping 22 points with 10/21 shooting.
With the Gamecocks at 9-7 in the SEC, their time to win is now.
South Carolina is in a five-way tie for the double bye in the SEC Tournament with Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn and Mississippi State. Even though the chances at receiving a NCAA Tournament bid have dwindled after two straight losses, it's still important for the team to end the regular season on a winning note before the conference tournament and any postseason tournament.
The Gamecocks and Aggies are set to tip off at 7 p.m. on Tuesday at Reed Arena in College Station, Texas. The game will be televised on the SEC Network.
Keys to the game
To get a win, South Carolina must:
- Start strong: Finishing games has worked well for the most part this season for the Gamecocks, but they're no stranger to slow starts. They were forced to battle back from 13-2 against Ole Miss, 28-15 against Alabama, and 34-21 in their last game against Texas A&M. If the Gamecocks come out fighting, they can put some pressure on the home team and allow themselves to play from a place they will be much more comfortable with: in the lead.
- Play better defense: It may sound surprising to suggest a Frank Martin-led team has to play better defense, but it's true. Since SEC play began on Jan. 5, South Carolina has held teams to a total of less than 70 only four times, forcing the Gamecocks to have to come to play each night on the offensive side. If the defense steps up their play, it could lead to more fast break opportunities and take some pressure off of the offense.
- Keep the leader out of foul trouble: It's basic knowledge. You are a better team when your best players are on the court. When Silva has his minutes chopped in half because of early fouls, that hurts the team both on the offensive and defensive side. Leading the team in field goal percentage, points per game and blocks, he needs to be on the floor as much as possible, and if the Gamecocks want to rekindle their early-season success, it starts with Silva.