College Sports

‘I want to be able to earn the 4-seed.’ Big opportunity awaits USC in finale with UGA

‘It’s going to be hard.’ Frank Martin tries to keep emotions in check for Chris Silva’s Senior Day

South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin is having a tough time preparing for Chris Silva’s last home game.
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South Carolina basketball coach Frank Martin is having a tough time preparing for Chris Silva’s last home game.

Game info

Who: Georgia (11-19, 2-15) at South Carolina (15-15, 10-7 SEC)

When: 1 p.m. Saturday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network

Radio: 107.5 FM The Game in Columbia area

Series: Georgia leads 58-55

Last meeting: Feb. 2, 2019, in Athens — South Carolina 86, Georgia 80

Streak: South Carolina’s won five straight

KenPom prediction: South Carolina 77, Georgia 71

STORYLINES

1. Quest for the No. 4 seed

South Carolina doesn’t need to win Saturday to clinch the No. 4 seed and a double-bye for the SEC Tournament. An Auburn loss to Tennessee would also do the trick for the Gamecocks as they own the tie-breaker over the Tigers.

Just don’t tell that to Frank Martin.

“I don’t want to get the 4-seed because we tied anybody,” Martin said Thursday night on the Gamecock IMG Sports Network. “I want to be able to earn the 4-seed. That’s what I challenge our team with.”

No matter the results Saturday, the Gamecocks can’t drop any lower than the 5-seed.

2. Lawson’s status

Martin said Thursday night that A.J. Lawson has made “great progress” with his sprained ankle, but Lawson’s status for the Georgia game remains to be determined.

The Gamecocks are 1-1 without their star freshman. They got by Texas A&M on Tuesday by shooting lights-out from 3-point range and holding the Aggies to seven field goals in the second half.

Georgia enters as the SEC’s worst scoring defense, allowing opponents over 74 points per game. The Bulldogs are also less than full strength as second-leading scorer Rayshaun Hammonds is sidelined with a foot injury.

Lawson scored 19 points in the first USC-UGA game. Hammonds had 11.

3. Senior Day

South Carolina hasn’t lost on Senior Day in three years.

Saturday’s will be special as Chris Silva, one of the program’s all-time greats, calls it a career in Colonial Life Arena. He’ll be joined by Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell. That trio has accounted for 45 percent of Carolina’s scoring this season.

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Senior Day ceremonies begin at 12:40 p.m.

GEORGIA

Coach: Tom Crean (367-250 in 19 seasons overall; first season at Georgia — 367-250)

Projected starters: G Christian Harrison (1.1 points per game), G Jordan Harris (7.1), G Turtle Jackson (5.8), F Derek Ogbeide (9.5), F Nicolas Claxton (13.0)

Last game: Lost to Missouri 64-49 on Wednesday at home

KenPom ranking: 119 (No. 109 in offense efficiency, No. 140 in defense efficiency)

NET: 108

SOUTH CAROLINA

Coach: Frank Martin (245-159 in 12 seasons overall; seventh season at USC — 128-105)

Projected starters: G Tre Campbell (6.8), G Hassani Gravett (11.6), F Keyshawn Bryant (8.9), F Chris Silva (14.5), F Felipe Haase (6.4)

Last game: Beat Texas A&M 71-54 on Tuesday in College Station

KenPom ranking: 78 (No. 92 in offense efficiency, No. 85 in defense efficiency)

NET: 81

Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.


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