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Basketball travels to South Carolina in desperate need of a win

Tigers take on the SEC’s best defensive team

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Mississippi State Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports

The month of February has not been kind to the LSU men’s basketball team (18-8, 9-4) as the Tigers have dropped four of six games and fallen from first place in the SEC to being tied for third with Florida.

LSU has been stunned in Nashville by Vanderbilt, blew a game at Auburn, dug too deep of a hole to climb out of against the Crimson Tide, and came up short at home against Kentucky. LSU’s next challenge will be going on the road to play a South Carolina team that is the best defensive unit in the conference.

The Gamecocks (16-10, 8-5) are currently a bubble team sitting just outside the NCAA tournament bracket. Carolina lost a key game Wednesday night at Mississippi State 79-76, but there’s a chance the Gamecocks could take LSU’s place in the bracket with a win over the Tigers thanks to Carolina’s wins over both Kentucky and Virginia.

South Carolina has the best defense in the SEC. The Gamecocks allow just under 67 points a game and are 40th in KenPom’s adjusted defense metric. Being stout defensively means turning your opponent over and blocking shots and Carolina excels at both, ranking in the top-60 nationally.

The Gamecocks have held 12 teams to below 40 percent shooting and have forced at least 15 turnovers 15 times. That doesn’t bode well for an LSU team that averages 15 turnovers a game.

“Well you can’t move the ball,” Will Wade said. “You can’t turn the ball. You have to play a lot of one-on-one. They help form a lot of different spots. The main issue for us is that they’re very, very physical. We’re not the most physical outfit you’ve ever seen. Their physicality is going to be the number one issue for us.”

What also doesn’t bode well for LSU is it’s porous three-point defense. Opponents are hitting nearly 38 percent of threes against LSU, which is the 279th worst percent in the nation. In its last four losses, the Tigers have allowed opponents to hit 52 threes at a 40 percent clip.

“We’re not going to become Virginia overnight,” Wade said. “If we could just get five to ten percent better that would be another two or three stops a game. We probably would have another two or three wins. Can we get five to ten percent better? I believe we can.”

Today’s game tips off at 5pm on ESPN2.