Louisiana State (15-8, 8-2) at South Carolina (20-3, 7-3)
When: Wednesday, February 10th 2016
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia, SC
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN2
The Louisiana State Tigers will try and keep their grip on the top of the SEC when they visit the South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday night. LSU might be just 15-8 overall this season, but their recent resurgence has them at 8-2 in conference play heading into tonight. Their 4-4 start is a thing of the past and part of the reason for their recent success is the return of sharp-shooting guard Keith Hornsby (13.4 points). The senior from Williamsburg, Virginia is hitting 41.7% of his three-point attempts and came through with 25 points in Saturday’s 88-77 win over Mississippi State. Hornsby nailed 5-of-10 from beyond the arc and also dished out 5 assists. Superstar Ben Simmons has seen his team play better around him with five players averaging double-digits in points. Simmons (19.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists) still leads the Tigers in every offensive category and is just a freshman. LSU averages a 24th-best 81.3 points a game and is 0-3 when they score less than 70. The Tigers have won four SEC games in a row sandwiched around a 77-75 loss to Oklahoma and have won their past two on the road – something they struggled with early on. LSU will get third-place Texas A&M at home on Saturday.
South Carolina leads all SEC teams with 20 wins overall, but are still sitting just outside the top 25. Their non-conference schedule was pretty poor at best and their first real signature win came just this past Saturday when they won at Texas A&M 81-78. The Aggies were ranked number eight at the time and South Carolina after tonight will host Kentucky on Saturday in what is a critical three-game stretch. After shooting a season-low 31.6% in a loss at Georgia a week ago, the Gamecocks rebounded to hit 52.6% from the floor against the Aggies – their highest mark in SEC play in three years. Forward Michael Carrera (14.1 points, 7.2 rebounds) scored another 20 points – his fourth 20+ effort in five games, surpassing 1,000 for his career in the process. Guard Sindarius Thornwell (12.7 points) scored 25 – one shy of his career high – while matching his personal best with nine assists. South Carolina has 20 wins in most part due to their success in defense and rebounding. The Gamecocks rank seventh in the nation with 42 rebounds per game and are 18th in field-goal defense (38.9 percent).
South Carolina might be 20-3, but they’re not a better team than LSU right now. I know they’re playing at home, where the Gamecocks are 12-0, but I can see Simmons having a big night and keeping it close.
Pick: LSU +4.5