The 12th-seeded South Carolina men's basketball team (10-20, 2-14 SEC) is set to face fifth-seeded Alabama (20-10, 9-7 SEC) on Thursday in the first round of the 2012 SEC Men's Basketball Tournament in New Orleans, La. Game time is set for 3:30 p.m. ET at the New Orleans Arena with the contest to be televised on the SEC Network.
OPENING TIP Date: Thursday, March 8, 2012 Tipoff: 3:30 p.m. ET Location: New Orleans, La. Arena: New Orleans Arena (18,000) Series: Alabama leads 22-13 Television: SEC Network (check local listings) Talent: Brad Nessler (pxp), Jimmy Dykes (analyst),
Shannon Spake (sideline reporter) Radio: Andy Demetra (pxp), Casey Manning (analyst)
Gamecock Radio Network
Carolina Quick Hits
- South Carolina is in its 104th season of basketball.
- South Carolina is the No. 12 seed in the 2012 SEC Tournament and will play fifth-seeded Alabama in the first round on Thursday. The meeting between the two schools will be the sixth all-time in the postseason event. Alabama holds a 3-2 upperhand in the SEC Tournament series. The teams last met in the first round of the 2010 tournament, with Alabama winning that contest 68-63.
- South Carolina is 8-9 all-time when playing in the first round of the SEC Tournament.
- In the regular-season meeting between Alabama and South Carolina the Gamecocks earned a 56-54 victory in Columbia behind a last second layup from sophomore guard Bruce Ellington. The game featured 13 ties and 11 lead changes. The final lead change occurred when Ellington broke a 54-54 tie on a driving layup with one second to go to give the Gamecocks the win.
- South Carolina concluded the regular season with a 67-55 loss at Georgia last Saturday. The teams combined for 52 free throws in the contest, with South Carolina hitting 13-of-18 attempts, while Georgia hit 23-of-34 from the line. Both teams struggled from the floor, with the Gamecocks hitting 36.7 percent (18-49) and Georgia 38.0 percent (19-50). Senior forward Malik Cooke led the Gamecocks with 17 points in the loss.
- Sophomore forward Damontre Harris collected his second-career double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds vs. Mississippi State on Feb. 29. Harris was 7-of-8 from the field, with two blocks and two steals. In league play, he averaged 7.8 points and a team-high 6.1 rebounds per game.
- In strictly SEC games, South Carolina fnished the season ranked third in steals (6.8) and fourth in blocks (4.4) per game.
- The Gamecocks had one of the toughest starts to SEC play this season, as the squad played Kentucky (currently first in the SEC) and Florida (third in the SEC) twice, and Vanderbilt (second in the SEC) once, in the first eight games of the league season.
- In the SEC statistical standings for overall games South Carolina ranks fourth in steals per game (6.9), fourth in turnover margin (+1.5) and is third in the SEC in offensive rebounding (12.5).
- Senior forward Malik Cooke ranks fifth in the SEC (all games) with 1.7 steals per game.
- South Carolina ranks fourth in the SEC and is among the nation's top 30 with 4.9 blocks per game. Sophomore forward Damontre Harris ranks 29th nationally with 2.3 blocks per game, which is second in the SEC.
- The Gamecocks concluded their 21st season of competition in the Southeastern Conference in 2012. Carolina owns a 129-207 all-time record in SEC play.
- In games it has won in 2011-12, South Carolina holds a +10.8 scoring margin over its opponents. To compare, in games it has lost, Gamecock opponents score 10.7 more points per game.
- South Carolina is 94-115 all-time in the month of March.
- South Carolina has scored more points in the paint than its opponent 13 times, and has scored more points off turnovers 16 times this season. The Gamecocks average 25.5 points in the paint and average 14.5 points off turnovers.
- When South Carolina played No. 1 Kentucky on Feb. 4, it marked the fourth top-two opponent the Gamecocks faced this season, as the squad had previously played then-No. 1 North Carolina, then-No. 2 Ohio State and the Wildcats when they were ranked No. 2 in early January. Those three teams have an average RPI of 4.3, with Kentucky the highest at 2 (as of March 5 RPI report).
By The Numbers 12.5 - South Carolina senior forward Malik Cooke enters SEC Tournament play as the team leader with 12.5 points per game this season. He has posted 22 games with double-digit points this season, including leading the Gamecocks with 17 points at Georgia last Saturday. 15 - Sophomore guard Bruce Ellington led the Gamecocks in assists 15 times this season. +14 - Nine Gamecocks average at least 14.1 minutes per contest, with five of those averaging at least 20.5 minutes per outing. 24 - South Carolina collected at least 10 offensive rebounds in 24 games this season. South Carolina collected a season-high 20 offensive rebounds vs. Providence on Dec. 1. In SEC games, South Carolina collected a season-high 19 offensive rebounds in the Jan. 25 56-54 win over Alabama. 50% - Over the course of the last five games, senior forward Malik Cooke has hit 50 percent (11-22) of his attempts from 3-point range. He is averaging 14.0 points per game during the stretch.
Alabama has won four of its last five games and seven of its last 10 entering Thursday's matchup in New Orleans ... The Crimson Tide owns a 20-10 overall record and earned the fifth seed in the SEC Tournament with a 9-7 mark in league games ... Senior forward JaMychal Green paces the team with 13.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per contest ... Green posted a double-double in the regular-season finale at Ole Miss with 11 points and 13 rebounds ... Sophomore guard Trevor Releford paces the team with 2.8 assists per game; he posted 2.3 assists per league game ... Alabama only attempts 14.6 3-pointers per game ... The Crimson Tide is one of the top defensive teams in the nation, holding opponents to just 57.9 points per outing and just a 38.7 shooting percentage ... Alabama ranks ninth in the NCAA in scoring defense (57.9) and second in 3-point field goal defense (27.8 percent).
- Alabama leads the all-time series 22-13, including a 4-2 upperhand in neutral site games. Five of those games have come in the SEC Tournament where the Crimson Tide holds a 3-2 upperhand. The sixth contest was in the 1996 Postseason NIT.
- Alabama has won three out of the last four meetings in the series.
Harris Named To SEC All-Defensive Team
- Sophomore forward Damontre Harris has had a stellar season on the defensive end, and he was awarded with selection to the five-member SEC All-Defensive Team earlier this week, as voted on by the league's coaches. Entering tournament play, Harris has posted 70 blocks this season and ranks second in the SEC with 2.3 blocks per outing. Harris has tallied 17 games with at least two blocks this season and six games with at least five blocks. The sophomore from Fayetteville, N.C., averages 6.8 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds per game.
Cooke Named To Community Service Team
- Senior forward Malik Cooke was named to the SEC Community Service team earlier this week. Cooke has participated in numerous hours of community service during his career at South Carolina. During the 2011-12 campaign, Cooke has visited Alcorn Middle School in Columbia to help promote literacy and the importance of reading to the middle school students. He also read to a grade school class, visited with at-risk youth prior to a women's basketball game, participated in the Fourth Annual Darrin Horn Ladies Clinic, a clinic hosted by the South Carolina staff that raises awareness for breast cancer and breast cancer research. Cooke also participated in the World Wide Day of Play, and, along with his teammates and the South Carolina staff, spent a day at Fort Jackson, a military base in Columbia, visiting with soldiers, Wounded Warriors, and also participating in an after school fan experience at Pinckney Elementary School at Fort Jackson.