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January 25, 2012
ALABAMA CRIMSON TIDE (13-6, 2-3 SEC)
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS (8-10, 0-4)
When: 8 p.m. today
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
Tickets: Available at the box office
Alabama's probable starters: G Trevor Releford 6-1 So. (12.8 ppg, 2.9 rpg); G Levi Randolph 6-5 Fr. (6.2 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Trevor Lacey 6-3 Fr. (7.7 ppg, 3.6 rpg); F Tony Mitchell 6-6 Jr. (13.3 ppg, 7.2 rpg); F JaMychal Green 6-8 Sr. (14.2 ppg, 7.0 rpg)
South Carolina's probable starters: G Bruce Ellington 5-9 So. (10.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg); G Brian Richardson 6-4 So. (3.7 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Anthony Gill 6-8 Fr. (8.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Malik Cooke 6-6 Sr. (12.2 ppg, 4.9 rpg); C Damontre Harris 6-9 So. (6.4 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
Notes: South Carolina returns for a brief one-game homestand before taking the road for two more away games. The Gamecocks have dropped four straight, and 12 of their last 14 regular-season SEC games. Alabama has lost three straight. The Crimson Tide lead the SEC in scoring defense, while USC has struggled to score all season. Alabama leads the series 22-12 and has won the last three. USC is the only SEC team without a win in league play. Releford has been the Tide's leading scorer in five of the last eight games. USC collected 10 steals in a loss to Auburn in its last game, the most of its SEC season, but also turned the ball over 23 times.
Next game: South Carolina tips off at Ole Miss at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
VIDEO: Darrin Horn, Malik Cooke
They're saying it, so one can't help but believe them.
"In terms of them coming back thinking they can, it's been better than I expected," South Carolina coach Darrin Horn said on Tuesday, as his battered team returned to practice following its fourth straight SEC loss. "During the game, we've got to do a better job of maintaining that. Some of that can be corrected by playing better."
The question dealt on confidence. As in, do the Gamecocks have any, while being the only SEC team without a win in conference play and unable to put two solid halves of basketball together?
"Our confidence is pretty good," sophomore center Damontre Harris said. "It makes us play even harder."
USC (8-10, 0-4 SEC) has been put through the wringer, losing its first three games due to hot shooting in one half and sub-zero shooting in the other. To be fair, the Gamecocks might have to do much more than shoot consistently to beat Kentucky, Florida or Vanderbilt - but then came Auburn, where USC shot very consistently.
When it could.
The Gamecocks turned the ball over 23 times, seven times in transition, and went from being up four points at halftime to being down 10 by the halfway mark of the second period. Auburn never let USC get back in the game, USC doing a fine job by itself by throwing the ball around, and the Gamecocks lost to a team that might have been the best chance for a win over the first eight games of the SEC schedule.
Now the Gamecocks have to turn around and face an Alabama team that is particularly vicious on defense, when USC has an offense that sputters. The Crimson Tide (13-6, 2-3) have also dropped three straight and like the Gamecocks, are hungry for a win.
"We've got to find a way to score some easy ones," Horn said. "They're extremely efficient when their defense is set in the half-court."
USC has problems running a set offense, preferring to get stops on defense and run pell-mell downcourt. That was defused early at Auburn, Bruce Ellington having his shot blocked while driving the lane and a couple of fast-break shooters holding up or throwing the ball where it had no chance of being caught and pumped toward the hole.
The turnovers, Harris said, are being worked on. "It's been a big focus," he said. "Coach has told us that people are going to try to get after us because they think we're soft."
But simply making shots, in a fluid exchange, continues to be a work in progress. It will attempt to get better against one of the best defenses in the country.
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