Auburn, So. Carolina seek to rebound from disappointments

NCAA Men's Basketball

South Carolina coach Frank Martin said if his host Gamecocks are going to end a two-game slide with a win over visiting Auburn on Saturday in Columbia, S.C., AJ Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard must lead the way.

They struggled in Tuesday’s 81-70 loss at No. 19 Missouri, as they combined to score 11 points on 4-for-21 shooting, including 2-for-12 from beyond the arc.

“We need those two guys, and it’s not calling players out; it’s just the bottom line,” Martin said. “… If AJ Lawson and Jermaine Couisnard play well, it gives us a chance to win. If they don’t, it’s gonna be a struggle.”

Lawson averages a team-high 16.6 points per game, ahead of Keyshawn Bryant (13.4), Couisnard (11.6) and Justin Minaya, who averages 9.1 points and a team-high 8.1 rebounds per game.

Lawson and Couisnard will look to regain their scoring touch for the Gamecocks (3-4, 1-2 SEC) against Auburn (8-7, 2-5), which is coming off a 75-73 loss at Arkansas on Wednesday that ended a two-game winning streak.

Auburn squandered a 19-point, first-half lead, as the Razorbacks’ Desi Sills scored 22 points — 14 in the second half — and Jalen Tate added 14 to lead Arkansas to its second win over the Tigers this season.

Auburn had a chance to win late, but Davonte Davis denied a layup attempt by Sharife Cooper with less than five seconds left to preserve the victory. Cooper finished with a game-high 25 points.

“Disappointing loss. Kind of let one get away,” Auburn coach Bruce Pearl said. “Great first 16 minutes of basketball on the road. Played really well at both ends. Last three or four minutes of the first half we kind of took our foot off the gas and gave Arkansas some confidence, and they just kept that through halftime.

“I probably should have let Sharife go quicker than that. If he goes quicker and he doesn’t score, we foul, we get another possession with more time. In a one-point game, I should have gone quicker. Two-point game, it doesn’t matter, and so that’s on me. I cost us a possession late.”

Cooper has been fantastic for the Tigers since the five-star recruit was cleared by the NCAA to play before the Tigers’ loss on Jan. 9 against Alabama. The freshman posted 26 points and nine assists against the Crimson Tide and is averaging a team-high 22.5 points, 8.3 assists and 1.5 steals per game.

Cooper is complemented by four teammates who also average in double figures — Allen Flanigan (13.8), Justin Powell (11.7, team-high 6.1 rebounds per game), Jamal Johnson (10.1) and Williams (10).

–Field Level Media

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