Tiger Tip-Off Preview: South Carolina

Missouri couldn’t get its offense humming against Mississippi State on Wednesday, falling on the road, 63-52. The team will look to get back in sync this week, starting with a home matchup against South Carolina.

The Gamecocks took an upset victory over Kentucky early in the SEC season, defeating the Wildcats on the road on Jan. 10, 71-68. But South Carolina hasn’t won another game in conference play, currently on a seven-game losing streak. The Gamecocks’ most recent loss, in which Arkansas edged them out, 65-63, left frustrated freshman forward G.G. Jackson to question his team’s decision-making in an Instagram Live after the game — Jackson has since apologized for his remarks.

Jackson and first-year head coach Lamont Paris will look to snap South Carolina’s losing streak when they visit Mizzou.

TIP TIME INFORMATION

Missouri (17-6, 5-5 SEC) vs. South Carolina (8-15, 1-9)

WHEN: 8 p.m. CT

WHERE: Mizzou Arena, Columbia Missouri

TV: SEC Network

SERIES: Missouri leads, 8-7

KENPOM PREDICTION: Mizzou 84, South Carolina 67

PROJECTED STARTERS

BY THE NUMBERS

BEST LINEUP OF THE LAST 5 OUTINGS (per CBB Analytics)

Sean East II-Isiaih Mosley-DeAndre Gholston-Kobe Brown-Mohamed Diarra

Minutes played: 5

Offensive rating: 123.0

Defensive rating: 61.5

Net rating: +61.5

KEYS TO THE GAME

1. Lock in on G.G. Jackson. Jackson was initially rated as the No. 1 prospect in the 2023 class and was committed to North Carolina. In July, though, he flipped his commitment to South Carolina and reclassified to play this season in his hometown of Columbia, S.C. Jackson immediately became the Gamecocks’ best player, leading the team in points and rebounds this year. He’s talented enough to leave for the NBA after his freshman season — in his most recent Big Board, Kevin Pelton of The Ringer ranked Jackson as the No. 9 overall prospect of this year’s draft class, comparing him to a “nimble Marcus Morris.” The rest of South Carolina’s roster often isn’t good enough to cover for Jackson when he has a rough shooting night. The forward shot 60.0% from the field in the team’s win over Kentucky and 47.6% in its loss to Auburn but has shot below 40.0% in all other SEC games this year, all of them losses. Slowing down Jackson will be essential in slowing down the Gamecocks.

2. Box out on defense. South Carolina is one of the worst shooting teams in the nation with an effective field goal percentage (which counts 3-pointers as 1.5 field goals made to reflect their added value) of 46.0%. Senior guard Chico Carter Jr. is the only above-average shooter from distance, making 48.3% of his triples. The number of bricks the Gamecocks lay leave ample opportunities for offensive rebounds and second-chance points. According to KenPom, South Carolina has secured 33.3% of available offensive rebounds, which ranks 49th in the country. The team shouldn’t be able to keep pace with the Tigers’ offense, but Mizzou will need to limit the number of extra chances it gives away on the boards.

3. Get to the rim. The Gamecocks have allowed opponents to connect on 53.9% of their 2-pointers this season, making them the 323rd-worst team at defending the interior. Paris has tried to curtail that issue by inserting 7-foot senior forward Josh Gray into the starting lineup and bumping his minutes up. Gray is currently rejecting shots on 6.8% of possessions, the highest rate on the team. But Gray also commits 6.4 fouls per 40 minutes, opening the door for Missouri to get to the free throw line regularly. The Tigers are the seventh-best shooting team inside the arc, knocking down 57.4% of their 2s. They shouldn’t hesitate to attack the basket on Tuesday.

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