After back-to-back wins over ranked opponents, No. 23 South Carolina hopes to avoid a letdown when it hosts Vermont on Thursday. The Gamecocks are looking to start 7-0 for the second straight season – but just the third time since 2003-04.
The Gamecocks entered the top 25 after posting convincing wins over Michigan and Syracuse last week and has won its first six games by a whopping 18.8 points per contest. Vermont has played its share of close games, on the other hand, recording victories of one, two and four points – including a pair of buzzer-beaters – along with a one-point loss to Houston. The Catamounts have not knocked off a ranked opponent since winning at Boston College on Nov. 13, 2007.
TV: 6:30 p.m. ET, SEC Network Plus
ABOUT VERMONT (6-2): The Catamounts love the outside shot and rank in the top 25 nationally in 3-pointers made (62) and attempted (171), with Ernie Duncan (11.5 points) leading the barrage. They also get solid production from the post duo of Tulane transfer Payton Henson (13.5 points, six rebounds) and freshman forward Anthony Lamb (10.6, 6.1). Point guard Trae Bell-Haynes (9.1 points, 4.5 assists) shoots better than 50 percent but looks to pass first and gives Vermont a steady ball-handler in a tough road environment.
ABOUT SOUTH CAROLINA (6-0): The Gamecocks have been outstanding at the defensive end, ranking fifth in the nation in scoring defense (56.7 points) and fourth in field-goal defense (32.3 percent). Things are coming along at the offensive end, too, as a supporting cast has begun to take shape around senior guards Sindarius Thornwell (20 points, seven rebounds) and Duane Notice (10.5 points). Sophomore swingman PJ Dozier (10.2 points) is coming off his first career double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds against Syracuse while freshman big man Maik Kotsar tied Thornwell for the team lead with 16 points against the Orange.
1. Thornwell ranks second in the SEC in field-goal percentage (48.7) and has made a blistering 48.1 percent from 3-point range.
2. South Carolina averages 33.7 points in the paint while holding the opposition to an average of 17.3.
3. Current America East Conference members are 1-40 all-time against current SEC teams, including Vermont’s 0-13 mark versus the league.
PREDICTION: South Carolina 73, Vermont 59