As we expected, South Carolina easily defeated Auburn, supposedly sending Tony Barbee off to burn something in a Milton/Office Space type of moment.
The Razorbacks are obviously favored on Thursday, and as all Hog fans know, that means diddly squat. Arkansas should win, but I doubt anybody feels totally comfortable.
Going by the stat sheet, Arkansas does have most of the advantages. Arkansas was the best in the SEC at creating steals and South Carolina was the worst in the league at giving them up. That should play directly into the Hogs' hands as it did in the game in Bud Walton Arena.
Arkansas has been a solid defensive team in SEC play and the Gamecocks are last in the league in 2-point FG%. The Hogs were near the top of the SEC in 3-point % and South Carolina was near the bottom at defending the three point shot.
But the Gamecocks did lead the league in 3-point %, and that's what is scary about them. Brenton Williams nearly killed the Hogs in the first game, going 6-13 from three and finishing with 29 points. And if their game on Wednesday against Auburn is any indication, they're shooting really well. They were 11-15 from three (73.3%). The big surprise was Duane Notice, a bench player who isn't a great shooter, going for a career-high 23 points.
The question will be whether South Carolina can keep that up on Thursday. The Razorbacks are definitely susceptible to giving up a big night to a hot shooter. The good news for Arkansas is that the Gamecocks did virtually all their damage from the three point line and the free throw line (23-30 from the stripe). They were just 9-34 on two point shots. If the Hogs can make things difficult for South Carolina around the perimeter, they should be in good shape.
If Arkansas can get rebounds, of course. Just like everybody else, South Carolina is a better rebounding team than Arkansas, particularly on the offensive boards. The Razorbacks must hit the boards. But that's not news.
Michael Qualls and Coty Clarke were the heroes for Arkansas in the first game, combining for 32 points. Bobby Portis had nine and Mardracus Wade had eight. Rashad Madden had possibly his worst game of the year, scoring just three points and turning the ball over four times. It'll be interesting to see how Madden plays, both because of his poor performance in the last game, and to see if he wants to prove to people that he should have been on the All-SEC team.
The first game featured two big runs. Arkansas went on an 18-2 run in the first half to take a 17-point lead in the first half, but immediately gave up a 15-0 run and nearly gave the whole thing back. So anything is possible Thursday.