ATLANTA -- As the SEC tournament begins this afternoon, it's a good and bad news sort of day for South Carolina's basketball team.
Which one you want first? The bad news? All right, the Gamecocks have won just two games since Jan. 19.
Good news: One of those two victories was Mississippi, today's first-round opponent at the Georgia Dome.
Tip is tentatively set for 3:30 p.m., depending on the first game between Auburn and Georgia.
The game between the East No. 6 Gamecocks (14-15) and West No. 3 Rebels (19-12) will be televised on WMMP.
"It's a fresh start for everybody," USC coach Darrin Horn said.
South Carolina has lost eight of nine, but Horn sees reason to hope in the fact that it had a chance to tie or lead Tennessee and Mississippi State in the final seconds of the past two ballgames.
"We obviously didn't get the result we wanted. We're never OK with that or accepting of it," Horn said. "But we did see some really positive things in ... being in position to be able to have an opportunity to win."
Despite the fact that USC has sunk below .500 for the year, Horn still seems to have some confidence in the team's ability to surprise this weekend.
"We feel like our team, with the depth that we have and over the long term, is built for this time of year," he said.
Horn is 0-2 in SEC tournament games. The Gamecocks had a bye in 2009, but were upset by eventual champion Mississippi State. Last year, a giant lead against Alabama slipped away for slumping USC.
The event is back in Atlanta for the first time since 2008, the first time in Horn's tenure. The last time it was here a team that entered with a sub-.500 record, Georgia, survived a wild weekend -- one that included a tornado and an impromptu new venue at Georgia Tech -- to qualify for an NCAA berth.
The USC-Mississippi winner faces Kentucky, the East's No. 2 seed, on Friday afternoon.
The Rebels are a good matchup for the Gamecocks because, although they have league's top point guard, Chris Warren, they don't feature much of an inside presence.
USC outrebounded Mississippi in the first meeting, 37-35. It was the first time the Gamecocks had outrebounded an opponent since their previous win, 20 days earlier, at LSU.
South Carolina vs. Mississippi
WHEN/WHERE: 3:30 p.m./Georgia Dome, Atlanta
TV: WMMP / RADIO: WTMA 1250-AM. LINE: Mississippi by 4
South Carolina (14-15)
HEAD COACH: Darrin Horn (50-40 in third year at South Carolina)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Bruce Ellington, 5-9, fr. (13.0 ppg, 3.2 apg); G Ramon Galloway, 6-2, so. (10.5 ppg, 2.5 rpg); F Sam Muldrow, 6-9, sr. (11.4 ppg, 7.2 rpg).
NOTES: Murphy Holloway is an Ole Miss transfer sitting out this season. The Irmo native will be eligible next season for USC. … The Gamecocks have won four of five against Ole Miss. … Muldrow was named this week the league’s defensive MVP. Ellington was an SEC all-freshman selection.
HEAD COACH: Andy Kennedy (104-62 in fifth year at Ole Miss)
PLAYERS TO WATCH: G Chris Warren, 5-10, sr. (18.9 ppg, 3.8 apg); G Zach Graham, 6-6, sr. (14.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg); F Terrance Henry, 6-10, jr. (9.3 ppg, 5.8 rpg).
NOTES: Warren was named to the All-SEC’s first team. He has yet to play in an NCAA tourney game. … Warren has a 3.8-2.1 assist-to-turnover ratio. … The Rebels finished tied for third in the SEC West, with Arkansas, but had the head-to-head advantage thanks to a Feb. 5 win in Fayetteville and a home win against the Razorbacks a month later.
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