The South Carolina men's basketball team (2-2) is set to face No. 1 North Carolina (4-0) on Friday in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas. The meeting marks the first for the two schools since the 1996-97 campaign. Tip time is set for 10 p.m. ET, with the contest to be televised on ESPN2.
OPENING TIP Date: Friday, November 25, 2011 Tipoff: 10 p.m. ET Location: Las Vegas, Nevada Arena: Orleans Arena Series: North Carolina leads, 57-21 Television: ESPN2 Talent: Jon Sciambi (pxp), Jay Bilas (analyst) Radio: Andy Demetra (pxp), Casey Manning (analyst)
Carolina Quick Hits
- South Carolina is in its 104th season of basketball.
- South Carolina began play in the Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational in Columbia with a 64-63 loss to Tennessee State on Sunday followed by a 61-57 victory over Mississippi Valley State on Tuesday.
- Senior forward Malik Cooke paced the Gamecocks with 18 points against the Delta Devils, including a stellar 10-of-12 mark from the free throw line. Both his free throws made and attempted were career highs for the Charlotte, N.C., native.
- South Carolina rallied from an 11-point deficit with 6:36 to go against MVSU, out-scoring the Delta Devils 22-7 over the final minutes for the win. The Gamecocks converted on six MVSU turnovers for 12 points down the stretch, using solid half-court pressure to force the giveaways.
- South Carolina sophomore guard Eric Smith tallied a career high 18 points in just 18 minutes vs. Tennessee State. The Mullins, S.C., native hit 6-of-10 from the floor, including a stellar 5-of-7 from 3-point range. Smith's previous career high was nine points. Smith earned the first start of his career on Tuesday vs. MVSU.
- Friday's contest vs. UNC marks the third in a stretch of four games in seven days.
- Friday's contest against the Tar Heels marks the ninth time the Gamecocks will play the AP No. 1 in its history, and the second time in the last three seasons. The last time South Carolina faced the top-ranked team the Gamecocks earned a thrilling 68-62 victory over Kentucky at Colonial Life Arena on Jan. 26, 2010, for their first win over a No. 1. The Gamecocks have played UNC when the Tar Heels have been ranked as the AP No. 1 three previous times, all during the 1957 calendar year.
- South Carolina is 281-403 (.410) all-time against current schools in the ACC. The last Gamecock victory over an ACC opponent came in a 64-60 win over Clemson on Dec. 5, 2010. Carolina's last loss to an ACC opponent came in an 85-70 loss vs. Boston College on Jan. 1, 2011.
By The Numbers 14 - Led by his 8-of-10 performance from the free throw line in the second half, senior forward Malik Cooke posted 14 points in leading Carolina in the second half against MVSU. Cooke also collected two crucial steals late in the contest. His first with 4:37 remaning in the game, which resulted in a made jumper to pull Carolina within six at 50-44; and his second - with 1:04 remaining, which resulted in two made free throws, which pushed the Carolina lead to 58-53 with under a minute remaining. 10 -Malik Cooke's 10 made free throws vs. MVSU marked the first time a Gamecock recorded double-digits from the line since Devan Downey tallied 11 on Feb. 10, 2010, vs. Florida in Columbia. 16 - Freshman shooting guard Damien Leonard tallied a season high 16 points against MVSU. The freshman from Greenville, S.C., hit four 3s in the game against the Delta Devils, including three in the first 6:55 of the contest. 3 - R-freshman forward Carlton Geathers has played quality minutes in all four games this season. The Georgetown, S.C., native blocked three shots against MVSU to bring his total to five for the season. He also pulled down three rebounds, right at his per game average.
Scouting North Carolina
The Tar Heels enter Friday's contest as the top-ranked team in the nation, sporting a 4-0 record on the season ... The Tar Heels have been ranked as the AP No. 1, 108 times in their history ... UNC will play four of its first six games on the road this season, with its two home games thus far also coming against Tennessee State and MVSU ... Sophomore forward Harrison Barnes paces the team with 17.0 points per game, while junior forward John Henson pulls down a team-best 10.8 rebounds per game ... Sophomore guard Kendall Marshall is among national leaders with 10.8 assists per game ... Marshall dished a season high 15 assists in a road contest at UNC Asheville last week ... Roy Williams is in his ninth season as the head coach in Chapel Hill and his 24th overall.
North Carolina Series
North Carolina holds a 57-21 edge in the all-time series with the Gamecocks. The two former Southern Conference and ACC rivals are meeting for the first time since the 1996-97 campaign. The last six meetings in the series have been at a neutral site. North Carolina holds a 20-7 advantage in neutral site matchups.
Last Time vs. No. 1
For the first time in school history, South Carolina defeated a top-ranked opponent when the Gamecocks earned a 68-62 win over No. 1 Kentucky on Jan. 26, 2011. The Gamecocks had lost their seven previous meetings against No. 1 teams. Then-senior Devan Downey notched his sixth-straight game with 20 points or more, as he finished the night with 30 points, including a 10-of-11 performance from the free-throw line. Downey connected on a 3-point play midway through the second half to put the Gamecocks ahead in the contest, and senior Brandis Raley-Ross connected on two free throws with under a minute remaining to seal the win.