The USC men's basketball team is off to their best start in years in the SEC. After head coach Frank Martin picked up his 200th victory at South Carolina the Gamecocks are 3-0 in the SEC for the first time in 20 years. Part of that success is how well they are playing defensively.
The Gamecocks host Ole Miss tonight in Colonial Life Arena for conference game number four. They are wreaking havoc on opponents forcing 21 turnovers through 3 conference games and there's a big reason for that.
"I think it's pride," USC guard Duane Notice said. "We just take pride in that there's times where we can go a week or so just practicing defense. I think that just kind of shows how intense we are. We take our defense seriously."
Notice, a senior, is getting over a shooting slump but during his scoring drought his defensive effort has been consistent as well as the teams.
"The (defensive) principles that's something we always like to clean up to make sure that we stay on top of them so that whatever team we play against we can enforce our will on them." Notice added.
That will power is evident from guard to center. Sindarius Thornwell and PJ Dozier are 1-2 in the SEC in steals averaging 2.6 and 2.4 thefts per game. Chris Silva gets two blocks a game and his ranked fifth in the conference in that category patrolling the paint.
They'll need that defense and an attention to detail in the rebounding department to get their fourth SEC win. Ole Miss is one of the best rebounding teams in the conference. They are third overall and are led by Sebastian Siaz who is the top rebounder in the SEC grabbing 11.6 per game. Georgia's Yante Maten is second only at 8.5
USC's perimeter defense got a boost with the return of Thornwell. He, Dozier, Notice and even Rakym Felder will get a crack at defender the outside threat for the Ole Miss Rebels. Deandre Burnett leads Ole Miss in scoring getting 18 per contest. What's more impressive is that the guard leads the SEC in free throw attempts (122) and makes (111).
The Gamecocks will need to play a physically and mentally demanding game on defense. Burnett's capability of getting to the line could impact how long Silva, Maik Kotsar and USC's other post players can stay on the floor and avoid foul trouble. If USC can deny his dribble penetration and everyone chips in on the rebounding effort USC can get to 4-0.
Offensively Thornwell and Dozier will continue to fill it up but don't be surprised if Notice and become that third scorer for the Gamecocks who can put this game away if it's a close one.
Tip-off is 6:30 pm ET at Colonial Life Arena. Highlights and reactions at 11 pm ET on News 19 WLTX.
--At halftime of the men's game the USC football team will be part of South Carolina's celebration of Jory Fleming. Fleming is one of 32 Rhodes Scholars and he will be an honoray captain for the game. South Carolina football players will also be recognized for the accomplishments during the 2016 season.