After losing four out of five games, Ole Miss returned to their winning ways on Saturday night by defeating the Georgia Bulldogs 84-74 in overtime. They will try to move that winning streak to two on Wednesday when they hit the road to face the Gamecocks of South Carolina.
South Carolina (12-13, 2-10) comes in having lost six in a row, including five by double digits. Colonial Life Arena has not been kind to the Gamecocks as they are just 8-7 at home this season, including 1-5 in conference. They started the season 10-3 but have fallen on hard times with Bruce Ellington and Michael Carrera missing time, and leading-scorer Lashay Page getting suspended for the rest of the season because of academic issues.
Ellington, the two-sport athlete from Moncks Corner, S.C., is potentially coach Frank Martin’s best scorer now that Page is gone. The point guard has struggled to find his touch again after a successful football season. He is averaging 3.3 turnovers to just 2.3 assists, and his shooting is not much better. Typically an elite scorer, Ellington is shooting just 34.8 percent from the field, 25.5 percent from three, and 62.7 percent from the line, an abysmal number for a point guard. Despite his struggles this season, the 5’9 guard is explosive and has the capability to go off in any given game.
The Gamecocks have depth at front as far as bodies are concerned but none of them are to be considered elite. Freshman Michael Carrera is the closest thing Martin has to a quality big man. The Venezuela-native is averaging 10.4 ppg and 7.1 rpg, both team highs. Against LSU, he had what coach Johnny Jones described as a “coming out party” when he scored 23 points and grabbed 10 rebounds. At 6’5 he is a bit undersized, but so are the Rebels with Murphy Holloway and Terry Brutus.
Holloway will be making his return to South Carolina for the first time since transferring from there at the end of last season. After starting his career at Ole Miss, the South Carolina-native was driven to move back home to deal with personal matters. He sat out the mandatory transfer season before deciding to return to Ole Miss without ever playing a game for the Gamecocks. Holloway will look to reclaim his old habits of dominating the paint, something that has eluded him for weeks.
Marshall Henderson is also looking to regain the aspect of the game that makes him special, his jumpshot. Now that it is not Saturday night, he will look to finish some business and have a sharpshooting night that brought him national acclaim. He will have a chance to do it against a team who has only limited two SEC opponents to under 60 points this season, a 58-51 loss to Vanderbilt and a 56-54 loss to Mississippi State.
South Carolina is merely playing for pride and a chance to be a spoiler, something that every underdog relishes in. Ole Miss on the other hand will look to walk the tightrope that is their NCAA credentials. A win against USC does not do much in regards to a stronger resume, but a loss could be catatonic as the Gamecocks a mess as of late. Gametime is set for 6 p.m. from Columbia, S.C. The game can be seen on ESPN3.