Syracuse-South Carolina Preview
South Carolina State coach Murray Garvin does not need to look at the statistics to know what kind of game to expect when 18th-ranked Syracuse faces South Carolina in a Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational game at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. Garvin has already lived it.
“I look for it to be a defensive basketball game,” said Garvin, whose Bulldogs have lost to both teams this season. “I think it'll be a grind-it-out, nasty basketball game.”
Syracuse (4-0) holds opponents to an average of 52.5 points per game, and foes are shooting just 29.2 percent overall and 19.2 percent from 3-point range against the Orange's vaunted 2-3 zone. The Gamecocks (5-0) limit opponents to 58 points per game, 32.3 percent shooting from the floor, and 23.1 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
Syracuse and South Carolina are both 3-0 in the five-team, round-robin Holiday Invitational, so Saturday's game in Brooklyn is the de facto championship game.
Southeastern Conference member South Carolina throttled No. 25 Michigan 61-46 Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C. The Wolverines shot 19.2 percent (10 of 52) from the field and 2 for 26 from 3-point range, and Michigan scored more points from the foul line (24) than the field (22) as it never figured out the Gamecocks' rotating man-to-man defense.
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who leads South Carolina in scoring at 21.8 points per game, scored 21 against Michigan on 8-for-12 shooting. He filled up the stat sheet with 10 rebounds, three assists, three blocks and a steal.
“South Carolina is shooting the ball much better from the perimeter,” Garvin said. “In the past, coach (Frank) Martin's teams were struggling to knock down open shots. Now the guards are making shots. Sindari Thornwell is playing the best basketball of his career.”
Atlantic Coast Conference member Syracuse welcomes a more challenging game after defeating Colgate, Holy Cross, Monmouth and South Carolina State by an average of 33.8 points per game. Led by fifth-year transfer guard Andrew White (17.3 points per game), the Orange have six players averaging 9.0 points per game or more.
“We're competitors and we want to play against the best,” said Syracuse forward Tyler Lydon, who is on the Naismith Player of the Year Watch List. “We've got some really good teams coming up on the schedule and we're all looking forward to it.”
When the Orange were in the Big East Conference and the conference tournament was at Madison Square Garden, Syracuse always tried to schedule a nonconference game at the Garden to help the players get used to the surroundings. The ACC tournament will be played at the Barclays Center this season.
“Depth perception kind of changes from court to court, so being in there and getting used to it and getting a good look at it, I think that will help (in the ACC tournament),” said Syracuse guard John Gillon.
The key to Saturday's game may be the players' focus as South Carolina must stay sharp after the upset win over Michigan, and Syracuse must avoid looking ahead to Tuesday's Big Ten-ACC Challenge game at No. 16 Wisconsin.
“We got to go deal with Syracuse,” Gamecocks coach Martin said after the Michigan game. “If for some reason, we punt one in and win by one, you think Vermont's going to come in here (on Dec. 1) and say, 'Whew, they're good. We're just going to lay down?' No. We got to play them all.”