The Ole Miss men’s basketball team will travel to Columbia, South Carolina, tonight to face off against the South Carolina Gamecocks. The teams enter Tuesday tied for fourth place in the SEC. The winner will take sole possession.
The Rebels, who stand at 18-7 (8-4), are coming off their fourth win in a row, a 75-65 victory over Missouri in which they forced 25 turnovers.
Ole Miss picked up scoring contributions from Bruce Stephens and K.J. Buffen who scored 17 and 14 points, respectively. The two took advantage of increased roles due to foul trouble for Blake Hinson and Dominik Olejniczak, showcasing the Rebels’ depth beyond guards Terence Davis, Breein Tyree and Devontae Shuler.
South Carolina, currently standing at 13-12 (8-4), and head coach Frank Martin have recently had a run of success. Despite a 4-7 record to begin the year, which included losses to No. 3 Virginia and No. 8 Michigan, the Gamecocks have bounced back with an 8-4 record in conference play. Their four SEC losses have come against a trio of top 15 AP Poll teams in Tennessee, Kentucky and LSU.
The Rebels will be forced to contend with senior Chris Silva on the inside for the Gamecocks. Silva is averaging 14.2 points per game on 52 percent shooting. The 6-foot-9-inch Gabonese native racks up rebounds while surrounded on the perimeter by guards A.J. Lawson, Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell, who all fall in the top 20 for most three-pointers made in the SEC.
Gravett and Campbell especially have been on a tear in conference play, averaging 47.5 percent and 51 percent from behind the arc in conference games, respectively.
The Gamecocks are also coming off an 84-77 victory over Texas A&M in which they tied the school record with 16 three-pointers made, six of which came from Lawson. The heavy three-point emphasis should worry Ole Miss, who currently ranks last in the SEC in three-point defense.
Turnovers should also play a vital role tonight. Kermit Davis’s zone defense is fifth in turnovers forced per game, while South Carolina averages the third-most turnovers per game in the SEC. The Rebels have an opportunity to continue their frenetic defensive play, as they have forced an average of 15.5 turnovers per game during their four-game win streak.
Ole Miss earned a No. 8 seed in the most recent iteration of Joe Lunardi’s NCAA tournament projections, and they were listed as a projected No. 7 seed from Sports Illustrated and CBSSports.
South Carolina is not projected to make the tournament by any major media outlets. A win for the Rebels would be key with games against No. 4 Kentucky and No. 5 Tennessee looming.
The game begins at 6 p.m. and can be viewed on the SEC Network.