Columbia, SC (SportsNetwork.com) - Coming off a humbling loss to top-ranked Kentucky, the 18th-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks close out the road portion of the regular season as they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in an SEC matchup at Colonial Life Arena.
Mike Anderson's Razorbacks have asserted themselves as the second best team in the SEC this season. Unfortunately, they found out the hard way on Saturday just how far they are from the top team, Kentucky. Arkansas had its seven-game win streak come to a crashing halt with an 84-67 loss in Lexington, leaving the team at a still impressive 23-6 overall, including 12-4 in-conference.
Frank Martin's Gamecocks have not had a similar experience in 2014-15. South Carolina was able to win its last game, topping Mississippi State at home on Saturday, 81-68, but the victory only brought the team back to .500 overall at 14-14. Wins in conference play haven't come easy for USC, which is just 5-11 in the SEC.
This marks the 29th all-time meeting in this series. Arkansas holds a 16-12 advantage and is seeking the regular-season sweep after routing South Carolina in Fayetteville back on Feb. 3 (75-55).
Like most of the other opponents that Kentucky has faced this season, Arkansas fell well short of expectations at the offensive end. The Wildcats limited the usually explosive Razorbacks to just .375 shooting and held a 38-32 edge in rebounding in the game. Arkansas was able to place four players in double figures, but unable to overcome a 16-point halftime (42-26) deficit when all was said and done. Michael Qualls led the way for Arkansas, just missing a double-double with 17 points and nine rebounds. Bobby Portis added 15 points and eight boards, while Alandise Harris and Rashad Madden finished with 12 and 11 points, respectively.
The numbers on the season suggest a much more potent offensive Arkansas squad. The team leads the SEC in scoring at 79.1 ppg (eighth nationally) and is converting just over 45 percent from the floor. Portis has been unstoppable at times. The 6-foot-11 sophomore forward is vying for SEC Player of the Year, as he is averaging team-highs of 17.5 ppg (second in the SEC) and 8.5 rpg (third in the SEC). Qualls can fill up the basket as well at 15.2 ppg (eighth in the SEC), while Madden has proven to be a valuable scorer (10.0 ppg) also, while tied for second in the league in assists (4.7 apg).
South Carolina will struggle to match Arkansas' firepower, as the Gamecocks are averaging 65.2 ppg on a pedestrian .401 shooting, a number weighed down by an ugly .290 effort from behind the arc. Sophomore guards Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell are the team's top scoring threats at 11.3 and 11.0 ppg, respectively. No other player is averaging double figures in scoring, although senior guard Tyrone Johnson is on the cusp at 9.9 ppg.
Johnson came up huge in Saturday's win over Mississippi State, as he erupted for a career-high 28 points, going 7-of-10 from the floor and 13-of-15 from the free-throw line. Junior forward Laimonas Chatkevicius matched his career high with 18 points, while Notice checked in with 13 points and five assists for USC, which shot .463 from the floor in the win.