COLUMBIA -- The nice little treat South Carolina's basketball team gets at the end of its difficult five-game stretch is a trip to an arena where the home team rarely loses.
The Gamecocks, who have lost the first four games of this stretch and are 1-8 in Southeastern Conference play, travel this afternoon to Arkansas, which is 16-1 at home this season, including 4-0 against SEC competition.
Arkansas' three best wins have come at home -- over Mississippi State, Michigan and Vanderbilt, which were ranked No. 15, 20 and 25, when they visited Fayetteville.
Unfortunately for USC, this game isn't in Columbia, because the Razorbacks are 0-7 on the road this season, including 0-5 in SEC play. They have lost their past two games, at LSU and at Georgia, two of the SEC's four worst teams.
"Two different teams," USC coach Darrin Horn said of Arkansas' home dominance and road woes.
The Gamecocks haven't started 1-9 in league play since the 1999-2000 season, and in order to avoid that fate today, they must handle Arkansas' full-court pressure defense.
The Razorbacks' first-year coach, Mike Anderson, was an assistant at Arkansas from 1985-2002 -- the entirety of head coach Nolan Richardson's tenure in Fayetteville. The frenetically paced defense Anderson now uses is a strategy he learned from Richardson. It was known as "40 Minutes of Hell," and Arkansas rode it to the 1994 national championship.
This Arkansas team (16-8, 4-5) doesn't have the talent of Richardson's squads from the early and mid-1990s, but Horn said the Razorbacks' pressure remains a concern, since Arkansas leads the SEC with 8.8 steals per game.
"They're very aggressive and active," Horn said. "We've got to take care of the basketball. I think the big thing is going on the road and handling those (scoring) runs that come from that (pressure defense). That's what they thrive on. They're going to get some because of how they play. We've just got to limit them from being too big and there being too many of them."
USC gets a chance to exhale a bit next week, when Georgia and LSU visit Columbia.
The Gamecocks' current five-game stretch includes four road games and a home game against top-ranked Kentucky.
But they're not going to beat anybody in the SEC if they have more issues like they did in Wednesday's 69-57 loss at Tennessee. Their post players, Anthony Gill and Damontre Harris, were non-factors in Knoxville. Gill shot 0 of 6 and had one point in 26 minutes. Harris shot 1 of 7 and had two points in 21 minutes.
"Everybody's not going to play at their highest level every night," Horn said. "But we're just not in a position where we can have two or three guys be sub-par and expect that we're going to play well enough to win, especially on the road in league play."
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