Gamecocks Host Auburn Saturday In SEC Action

Image Credit: South Carolina Athletics

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina (3-4, 1-2 SEC) continues Southeastern Conference play on Saturday when it hosts Auburn (8-7, 2-5 SEC) for a Noon matchup at Colonial Life Arena. Beth Mowins (play-by-play) and Jimmy Dykes (analyst) will handle the call for the ESPN2 broadcast, while Derek Scott (play-by-play) and Casey Manning (analyst) will have the call over the air on the Gamecock Radio Network.

GAME INFORMATION
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Broadcast: ESPN2
Play-By-Play: Beth Mowins
Analyst: Jimmy Dykes
Radio: Gamecock Radio Network
In Columbia: 107.5 The Game
Play-By-Play: Derek Scott
Analyst: Casey Manning
Sirius: – | XM: 191 | Internet: 962
Watch: WatchESPN/ESPN App
Live Stats: GamecocksOnline.com
Auburn Series: Auburn leads 26-19
In Columbia: Carolina leads 11-8
Series Trend: Auburn has won two straight
Last Meeting: 80-67 Auburn win on Jan. 22, 2020, in Auburn, Ala

TIPOFF NOTABLES
> South Carolina opens a two-game homestand on Saturday with a Noon matchup vs. Auburn. The meeting is the only between the two schools this season. Carolina aims to snap a two-game Tiger win streak in the series on Saturday. Fun fact, Saturday’s contest vs. Auburn marks Carolina’s third-straight game versus an opponent with Tigers as its mascot.
> Missouri jumped out to a 10-point lead in the first three minutes of Tuesday’s contest, and the Gamecocks weren’t able to overcome the early deficit in the 11-point loss to the 19th-ranked Tigers. Missouri hit 58.3% from the field in the 81-70 win.
> Sophomore forward Trey Anderson had a breakout performance at Mizzou. The San Diego native played a career high 25 minutes off the bench, hitting 7-of-9 from the floor, including a pair of 3s, en route to a career high 17 points. His five rebounds were also a career best.
> Carolina held a four-point lead at halftime of its matchup at LSU behind 18 first-half points from junior guard AJ Lawson, but, the Tigers out-scored the Gamecocks 51-42 in the second half to close the home win on Jan. 16. Lawson finished with 22, his third-straight game with 20+, and junior forward Keyshawn Bryant scored a career high 26 in the loss.
> R-sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard paces the Gamecocks with 27 assists on the year (3.9 per game) against just 16 turnovers, an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.7 which is third in the SEC. Couisnard has dished out at least three assists in six games this season.
> Due to COVID-19 health and safety protocols, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin, assistant coach Chuck Martin, and Doug Edwards, who handles student-athlete development for the team, did not travel with the team to Baton Rouge on Jan. 16. Assistant coach Bruce Shingler was the acting head coach for the matchup vs. the Tigers, along with assistant coach Will Bailey, video coordinator Brian Steele, and special assistant to the head coach John Reynolds.
> Carolina opened SEC play on Jan. 6 with a 78-54 win over visiting Texas A&M at Colonial Life Arena. Junior guard AJ Lawson scored a career high 30 points in the win, R-sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard added 15 points and sophomore forward Wildens Leveque scored a season high 10 points for the Gamecocks.
> Martin is 33-47 (.412) against ranked opponents as a head coach. His teams have four wins over opponents ranked in the top five, and two wins over opponents who are ranked No. 1.
> A pair of Gamecocks collected preseason honors from both the media and SEC coaches during the preseason. Junior guard AJ Lawson earned preseason All-SEC Second-Team accolades from the media, while Lawson (First Team) and Couisnard (Second Team) were honored by the SEC coaches on the preseason teams.

SCOUTING THE TIGERS
> Auburn is 8-7 on the year and is 2-5 in SEC contests.
> The Tigers began the SEC campaign with four consecutive losses, followed by back-to-back wins at Georgia and vs. Kentucky, before suffering a road loss at Arkansas earlier this week.
> Head coach Bruce Pearl is in his seventh season leading the Tigers.
> Freshman guard Sharife Cooper paces the team with 22.5 points and 8.3 assists per game. Allen Flanigan (13.8), Justin Powell (11.7), Jamal Johnson (10.1) and Jaylin Williams (10.0) also average double-figure points.
> In the SEC stats, Auburn is sixth in scoring offense (76.1 ppg) and third in 3-point FG% defense, holding opponents to just 29.9% from beyond the arc. The Tigers are third in assists per game, 15.0, and also in blocks per game, 5.7.

GAMECOCK NOTES TO KNOW
> Head coach Frank Martin is in his ninth season leading the Gamecocks in 2020-21. He is joined by assistant coaches Will Bailey, Chuck Martin and Bruce Shingler, while Andy Assaley is the director of operations for the squad.
> Junior guard AJ Lawson is Carolina’s top returning scorer after pacing the team with 13.4 points per game last season. He averaged the same during his rookie campaign, and is just 80 points away from reaching 1,000 for his career.
> Five who started the majority of SEC games last season return to the court for Carolina. Lawson, sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard, who paced the team in league play at 12.1 points per game, junior forward Keyshawn Bryant, junior forward Justin Minaya (missed nine SEC games due to injury last season) and junior forward Alanzo Frink.
> South Carolina returns a core group from last season’s squad that finished the shortened campaign with an 18-13 overall record. The Gamecocks return three of their top five scorers, including Lawson (13.4 ppg), Couisnard (12.1 ppg) and junior forward Keyshawn Bryant (9.1 ppg). Junior forward Justin Minaya, who missed nine games last season due to injury, added 7.8 points per game in 2019-20.
> From last season, the biggest absence from the lineup will be graduated four-year starter Maik Kotsar. Kotsar had a career year, averaging 11.2 points and 6.3 rebounds per game, while also leading the Gamecocks in blocks (1.1 per game) and steals at 1.5 per outing in 2019-20. Kotsar, who was a starter during his rookie season on Carolina’s 2017 Final Four squad, also played a team high 30.4 minutes per game a year ago.
> The Gamecocks posted a 78-71 win over Florida A&M on Jan. 2 in their home opener, using a 9-2 run over the final five minutes to secure the win. Junior guard AJ Lawson’s then-career high nine made field goals saw him post a team best 25 points in the win, sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard added 15, and junior forward Justin Minaya posted his first double-double of the season with 10 points and a team high 10 rebounds. The Gamecocks had nine players available for the contest.
> South Carolina returned to the court for the first time since Dec. 5 when it hosted Florida A&M on Jan. 2. The contest marked the Gamecocks’ first game in 28 days due to a combination of positive COVID-19 tests, contact tracing and subsequent quarantining of individuals within the South Carolina program.
> The Gamecocks held a halftime lead on the road at No. 10 Houston (Dec. 5), however, the Cougars battled back in the second half and closed a 77-67 win. Junior forward Justin Minaya hit all three of his attempts from beyond the arc and led Carolina with 13 points in the loss.
> On Nov. 29, Carolina held Tulsa scoreless for 9+ minutes in the second half and used a 15-0 run to close a 69-58 win over the Golden Hurricane at the Hall of Fame Classic in Kansas City. The win was Carolina’s first on the year, and improved the Gamecocks’ record to 1-1 after opening action in Kansas City with a 78-62 loss to Liberty (Nov. 28).
> Junior guard AJ Lawson was named to the Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament Team after a pair of double-figure scoring outings at the event. Lawson led the Gamecocks with 12 vs. Liberty, before a 17-point outing behind four 3s in the win over Tulsa. On the weekend, Lawson was 6-of-13 (46.2%) from range, while also dishing out three assists and collecting three steals.
> R-sophomore guard Jermaine Couisnard led Carolina with 20 points in the win vs. Tulsa. It marked the third 20-point outing of his career. Dating back to the start of SEC play last season, he has now hit double-figures in 19 of his last 22 games.

BY THE NUMBERS
22.5 – Junior forward Keyshawn Bryant is averaging 22.5 points per game over the course of the last two games. He tallied a career high 26 at LSU last Saturday, before scoring 19 at Missouri in the mid-week matchup vs. the Tigers.
8.1 – After pulling down 11 at Missouri, r-junior forward Justin Minaya is now averaging a team high 8.1 rebounds per contest, which ranks fourth in the SEC entering weekend action.
19 – The Gamecock defense forced 19 Missouri turnovers earlier this week in the matchup vs. the Tigers. Carolina is now averaging 16.6 opponent turnovers per contest this season, which is fourth in the SEC and 34th nationally.
30 – Junior guard AJ Lawson scored a career high 30 points in the SEC opening win over Texas A&M on Jan. 6. Lawson was a career best 10-of-22 from the floor vs. the Aggies.
10 – The Gamecocks hit a season high 10 3-pointers in the win vs. Texas A&M on Jan. 6, with half of those on the career high performance of five by Jermaine Couisnard. Lawson added three, and Minaya hit a pair as well.
73.4% – South Carolina returns 73.4 percent of its scoring from last season, including leading scorer, junior guard AJ Lawson who averaged 13.4 points per game.
13 – Redshirt-junior forward Justin Minaya led the Gamecocks with a season high 13 points in the Dec. 5 matchup at Houston. Minaya was a combined 1-of-8 from 3 in the first two games of the season, but he was perfect from range vs. the Cougars, hitting all three of his attempts.
17 – The Gamecocks dished a then-season high 17 assists in the win vs. Texas A&M, led by five from R-junior forward Justin Minaya, which matched his career high.
+14 – The Gamecocks out-rebounded Texas A&M (Jan. 6) by 14, its highest margin on the glass this season. It was the highest margin in an SEC contest since a +13 margin over Ole Miss on Dec. 31, 2017 in the SEC opener.

GAMECOCKS ADD TRE-VAUGHN MINOTT
> Tre-Vaughn Minott, a freshman center from Montreal, has joined the Gamecocks and is immediately eligible for competition. Minott has been at the NBA Academy Latin America since Sept. 2019. During his time at the Academy, his squad competed at the National Prep School Invitational in Rhode Island and at The Skill Factory Tournament of Champions in Atlanta in 2020.

COOPER IMMEDIATELY ELIGIBLE FOR COMPETITION
> Sophomore guard Ford Cooper Jr. is immediately eligible to take the court for the Gamecocks this season after the NCAA Division I Council granted a blanket waiver allowing transfer student-athletes to compete immediately. Cooper transferred to Carolina after spending his freshman season at Missouri State, where he played in 27 games with five starts. His 2.9 assist-to-turnover ratio in Missouri Valley Conference contests ranked third in the league. His top scoring output of the season came in a seven-point performance versus Evansville, and his five assists in a matchup at Drake marked a season best. Cooper had 10 games with two or more assists last season as well.
> The Council granted a blanket waiver allowing immediate eligibility to student-athletes who meet certain criteria: the student-athlete must be enrolled full time at the school for the Fall 2020 term, it must be the first transfer from a four-year school, the student-athlete must have left their previous school in good standing academically and not facing disciplinary suspension, and both the head coach and student-athlete must certify that impermissible recruiting did not take place.

COMING UP NEXT
> Carolina stays at home and will host Georgia on Wednesday, Jan. 27, for a 7 p.m. ET matchup. The contest vs. the Bulldogs will be broadcast on ESPN2. South Carolina has won eight straight meetings against Georgia, dating back to the 2017 season.





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