The early part of the season for major-conference teams is supposed to be about tuning up for the conference run with easy wins over inferior opponents. That hasn’t worked out so well for South Carolina.
The Gamecocks (1-2) have lost back-to-back games to small-conference foes, and they’ll try to avoid a third such loss when they host Mississippi Valley State in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational. It’s the first meeting between the schools.
The Delta Devils (0-3) are in the midst of a two-month road trip to start the season and coming off a 101-75 loss at No. 1 North Carolina. Guard Brent Arrington leads the team with 13.0 points per game, but 33 of his 39 points this season came against North Carolina.
Forward Amos Studivant has been steadier, averaging 10 points and 8.7 rebounds with 12 points in each of the past two games. The Delta Devils have struggled outside the 3-point arc – at both ends of the floor. They’re hitting only 28.1 percent from 3-point range and opponents have shot 37.1 percent against them.
It seemed like things couldn’t get much worse than the Gamecocks’ 58-53 road loss to Elon on Tuesday, but a 64-63 home loss to Tennessee State on Sunday was a new low point. To make matter worse, the Gamecocks lost sophomore guard Brenton Williams to a sprained left knee in the game, and he is expected to miss at least three games. The injury hurts an already thin backcourt that is missing point guard Bruce Ellington until after the Gamecocks’ football team wraps up its regular season Saturday. Sophomore guard Eric Smith doubled his career-high with 18 points in South Carolina’s loss to Tennessee State.