South Carolina basketball: Gamecocks travel to face No. 19 Missouri

South Carolina basketball preps for a 2nd straight road game.

The Gamecocks just returned from Baton Rouge this Saturday following a close 85-80 defeat at the hands of conference foe LSU. Now, they’re back on the road to face No. 19 Missouri, as they try to leave Columbia, MO with a win over a top 20 opponent.

The Gamecocks received some good news on head coach Frank Martin, who was unable to make the trip to Louisiana last weekend due to COVID. It was the second time that Martin has contracted the virus, but after an lengthy quarantine, he’ll be back on the sidelines for South Carolina.

The status of big men Jalyn McCreary and Alanzo Frink is still unknown, likely meaning the Gamecocks will be shorthanded once again. The team hasn’t had more than eight scholarship players available since early December.

That lack of depth caught up with the Gamecocks in the loss to LSU, as the team made just one shot over the game’s final seven minutes, allowing the Tigers to get back into a game that South Carolina had controlled for the first 35 minutes.

One positive that came out of the loss was the return of Keyshawn Bryant, who scored a game-high 26 points in his first game since December 5th. Bryant also pulled down seven boards and led the team with four blocks.

AJ Lawson continued his hot streak, too, eclipsing the 20-point mark in his third consecutive contest. Justin Minaya tallied his second double-double in his last three matchups. Both Minaya and Lawson were on the court for all 40 minutes of the game against the Tigers.

Looking forward to Missouri

Matchup
South Carolina Gamecocks
3-3
Missouri Tigers
8-2
Tuesday, Jan 19
7 PM ET
SEC Network
UM -5.5

Missouri is a senior laden team, that’s been performing at a high level. Xavier Pinson, Jeremiah Tilmon, Dru Smith, Mark Smith, and Kobe Brown have accounted for more than 75% of the Tigers’ scoring this season. Pinson leads the way at 14 points per game, with (Dru) Smith, (Mark) Smith, and Tilmon all averaging double figures.

On defense, the Tigers have been stingy. Missouri ranks as the SEC’s best defensive unit in terms of opposing shooting percentage, limiting foes to just a 39.4% successful conversion rate. Point guard Dru Smith is also leading the conference in steals (2.1 spg), though, as a team, the Tigers rank last in the category. They play a little less aggressive on defense, as the Tigers rely on setting their half court scheme, and forcing opponents to find good looks.

That more deliberate pace is also why they rank near the bottom of the league in turnovers, only giving the ball to opponents a total of 13.9 times an outing. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, turn it over an average of 16.2 times but also force nearly eight steals a contest. South Carolina will hope to play fast and aggressive in an attempt to disrupt the methodical play of Missouri.

Key matchup

The guard play in this game should be about even, with both teams possessing strong, experienced backcourts. Play in the paint is what may decide this one. South Carolina, as mentioned earlier, may be without post players Jalyn McCreary and Alanzo Frink, meaning center Wildens Leveque could have the task of locking down Missouri’s Jeremiah Tilmon (11.3 ppg, 7.8 rpg). Expect to see Justin Minaya and Keyshawn Bryant to play down low, too, in order to make up for the lack of depth.

Prediction

The Gamecocks played strong in that matchup with LSU, but faded in the game’s final five minutes due to cramping and tired legs, letting a huge SEC win slip away. With a majority of the Gamecocks’ top players playing 35 minutes or more in that last contest, South Carolina could see a carryover effect.

Missouri has played great thus far, and has the experience to pull out a close win.

South Carolina Gamecocks
65
Missouri Tigers
72