After a tough two games on the road, the Gamecocks (14-11, 5-6) return home where opponents of the South Carolina Basketball Program find it hard to get a win. The Tennessee Vols (19-6, 7-4) will come into the Colonial Life Arena, better known as "The House That Horn Rebuilt" on Saturday afternoon trying to keep their winning momentum alive. After finding the road again tough with losses at Georgia and Arkansas, Darrin Horn and team are understandably excited about returning home to the arena that has allowed few to leave with a victory since Horn has arrived in Columbia. Sporting a record of 11-2 at home this season, including a win over then #1 Kentucky and only 2 regular season losses at home last year, Horn's first season.
Tennessee is fresh off a 69-60 victory at home against Georgia, but Tennessee while posting a 13-1 record at home this season is only 3-4 away from Knoxville. South Carolina plays extremely well in the Colonial Life Arena for a few obvious reasons, but it appears that the Horn developed and inspired Garnet Army has raised the level of home court advantage and the energy deployed on game day in Columbia. Returning the fan attention to the student body, along with reaching out to the female fan base, has allow the hosting basketball team to create a very hostile venue to visit and a tough place for opponents to execute their offense. The atmosphere seems to fuel defensive energy in the Gamecocks and the fans appear ready to fuel the team's adrenaline following every positive play and any noticed extra individual effort displayed by the USC players.
While the NCAA may be a long shot, if a possibility at all, the post season still offers the NIT, which could be a better location for a team being built into a program. To get in even that post season event requires wins. Chances are great that South Carolina would host a couple of NIT games before having go on the road if they can continue to taking care of business at home and steal a victory or two in the SEC tournament. A lot will ride on the game Saturday afternoon for both squads, but USC and Coach Horn have the advantage of being able to protect their house with a sixth man that is ready to execute with energizing support for 40+ minutes.
While the road has been tough, the welcome that awaits the Cocks as they return home Saturday to take on the Vols, who gave the Gamecocks one of the two regular season home losses last season, and get back to their winning ways should be extremely comforting to the competitive young men who believe in and support one another, the characteristic of a real team. Hopefully the fan base will allow them to restore some of their confidence and aggressiveness to compete as always in Columbia.
The keys to victory tomorrow; re-identify with intense defense, challenge shots in the post and gain the same scoring output as displayed on the road over the last week, but support it with more interior offensive play to get to the free throw line more and make the opposing defense cover the entire floor with all five players. If they continue to protect the ball as a team, gain a better balance of shot selection from post to perimeter and close the gap between their opponents and them at the free throw line, Coach Horn will continue to appreciate the term..."Home Sweet Home".