Gamecocks get a second chance at No. 2
COLUMBIA -- This one should seem somewhat familiar to you: South Carolina is heading to Big Ten country to face the second-ranked team in the nation.
It happened last month. It's happening again today.
The Gamecocks hung tough with Michigan State on Nov. 16 in an 82-73 Spartans win in East Lansing, Mich. Now it's time to see what they've got for Ohio State in Columbus, Ohio.
Tip today is at 2 p.m. The game will be televised nationally on CBS -- something third-year coach Darrin Horn relishes.
"I think they're excited about the challenge," Horn said. "One of the things we've done by design is recruit young men that want to be in this (type of) game."
Further, Horn said the young Gamecocks (7-1) want to eventually be in a position in which the shoes switch feet. They desire to be the team asked about -- rather than the other way around.
Horn has said you get to that point by playing those "name" programs.
Ohio State is one, without question.
Coach Thad Matta has led the Buckeyes to four NCAA appearances and two conference titles since 2004. Ohio State was a Final Four participant in 2007.
The Buckeyes, 9-0 this season, are led by 6-9 freshman Jared Sullinger, the hometown product who is averaging a team-best 17.2 points and 8.6
rebounds a game. But Sullinger is joined by three seniors and a junior in the starting lineup, three of which -- William Buford, Jon Diebler and David Lighty -- score more than 10 a game.
Diebler, who hit nine 3-pointers in a game earlier this week, might be one of the better pure shooters South Carolina sees all season.
Will South Carolina -- winners of six straight since that Michigan State loss -- be able to use the first big-stage game as a springboard when it comes to this one? Horn said there should be a more level approach this time around.
When the Gamecocks have played their best this season, they've done so by being fundamentally driven.
Whether South Carolina is playing the 200th-ranked team in its practice facility or No. 2 on the road, Horn has stressed defense, rebounding and limiting turnovers.
"You've still got to, as they say in football, block and tackle," he said. "I think we're starting to grow in that area, as a team."