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Jan 21, 2017; Lexington, KY, USA; Kentucky Wildcats guard Isaiah Briscoe (13) shoots the ball against South Carolina Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) and guard Justin McKie (20) in the second half at Rupp Arena. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 85-69. Mandatory Credit: Mark Zerof-USA TODAY Sports

PREVIEW: Auburn Tigers Travel for SEC Showdown with No. 23 Gamecocks

Upset Alert for Auburn?

Tonight, the Auburn Tigers look for an upset on the road against the No. 23 South Carolina Gamecocks. South Carolina is 15-4 this season and are second in the SEC. Meanwhile, the Tigers are 13-6 and find themselves at the lower half of the conference in the No. 8 spot. South Carolina is 5-1 against SEC opponents while Auburn is 3-4.

https://twitter.com/GamecockMBB/status/823919338780495873

The Gamecocks saw their red-hot win streak come to an end against Kentucky on Saturday. But prior to then, the team had tallied five straight wins, all against SEC opponents. South Carolina beat Georgia, Texas A&M, Tennessee, Ole Miss, and Florida en route to their Saturday defeat. Despite this, the Gamecocks remain the team to beat in tonight’s matchup.

While Auburn’s record places the team at the middle of the pack, they are coming off of two solid wins against Alabama and LSU. They’ll look to carry this momentum heading into a tough matchup away from their home crowd.

Jan 21, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Auburn Tigers guard Jared Harper (1) shoots around Alabama Crimson Tide guard Corbin Collins (3) during the second half at Auburn Arena. The Tigers beat the Tide 84-64. Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Sindarius Thornwell Looking to Lead SC to Win

A highlight from South Carolina’s loss to Kentucky was senior guard Sindarius Thornwell’s performance against the Wildcats. Thornwell dropped 34 points, 6 rebounds and was 14 for 15 from the free throw line. Scoring 34 points against the No. 3 ranked team in the nation is no small feat. He’ll look to carry this momentum on offense against the Tigers tonight. The Gamecocks sorely missed their second leading scorer, sophomore guard PJ Dozier. Dozier missed the game due to back spasms, and he aims to return for the match up against the Tigers. Dozier averages 14.6 points per game, and leads his team in assists (52) and steals (35).

South Carolina has boasted a strong defense this season. They are number one in the nation in opposing 3-point shooting defense, limiting teams to a measly 27.2 percent. Additionally, the team leads the SEC in opposing scoring defense, as they hold teams to around 60.7 points per game. Auburn head coach Bruce Pearl will have a tough task ahead of him in trying to find a way to put points up on the board.

Auburn Freshman Leading the Way

After the win against LSU, Coach Pearl picked up his 500th win of his career. The Tiger’s recent success can be attributed to the team’s fresh talent. Auburn’s freshman center Austin Wiley came up strong for his team last Saturday against the Crimson Tide with 19 points and 9 rebounds. Additionally, the team’s arguable best player right now is another first-year guard Mustapha Heron. Heron is averaging 15.6 points and 6.2 rebounds this season.

While Wiley and Heron are playing well, they aren’t doing it alone. Freshman forward Danjel Purifoy averages 13.1 points, 5.6 rebounds and 2.1 assists this season. Also, first-year guard Jared Harper is having a solid season with 12.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game. The Tigers’ top four players this season are all freshman. This should be encouraging for Auburn fans. While the team may struggle this season, they should be optimistic about upcoming years with the way their young talent is playing.

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