The Arkansas Razorbacks closed out the last two minutes of their opening game in the SEC Tournament versus Vanderbilt without their two best players. With the game seemingly in hand, all the Hogs had to do was make their free throws to survive and advance.
Mason Jones (22 points) and Isaiah Joe (18 points) both fouled out with less than three minutes to go in the ball game but timely baskets and free throw makes by Desi Sills (20 points), Jalen Harris (7 points) and Jimmy Whitt (12 points) helped secure Arkansas’ slot in the second round and set up a revenge game today versus the South Carolina Gamecocks at 8 PM, again the night cap of the SEC Tournament.
What do Hog fans make of their upcoming game tonight? The suspicion is that this game will be just as physically demanding as the first matchup in Fayetteville. A foul fest? One could say that after both teams combined for 73 free throw attempts in a 79-77 loss for the Razorbacks on January 9, 2020. When Arkansas would pull within one possession of South Carolina, the Gamecocks would find ways to reestablish their hold on the game by shooting six for six from the floor in those situations.
Mason Jones singlehandedly kept Arkansas within striking distance that night by scoring 34 points and recording 12 rebounds. Isaiah Joe added 16 points, too.
Gamecock head coach, Frank Martin, announced Wednesday that Maik Kotsar was injured before the SEC Tournament and is unlikely to play this week. You hate to see injuries happen to key players. Since SEC play started, Kotsar has averaged 12.3 points per game, 6.6 rebounds and 1.2 blocks per contest. The last time these teams faced each other, Kotsar nearly recorded a double double with 10 points and nine rebounds. He also scored in double figures in nine of the Gamecocks last 11 ball games with a high of 24 points.
The biggest factor in Arkansas’ matchup with South Carolina is the fact that A.J. Lawson is looking for a big night. In the previous matchup, Lawson scored a game high 19 points on eight of thirteen from the floor and five rebounds to lead his team to victory
Since the calendar turned to February Gamecock freshman, Jermaine Cousinard, has scored double figures in 10 of the last 11 ball games with a career high of 28 at Ole Miss This diaper dandy has been a special one for their gritty Martin club.
Will Cousinard’s scoring be enough to compensate for the loss of Kotsar? Can the Razorback defense force South Carolina into shooting ill-advised three point shots? The Gamecocks only shoot a 31 percent clip from three which is good enough for 292nd in the country. Their free throw percentage is even worse at 62 percent which ranks them 345th in the country.
If Arkansas can shoot the ball similar to last night, force turnovers and avoid foul trouble it is a reasonable to believe the Razorbacks could possibly advance to face LSU in the quarterfinals.