Friday, December 20, 2013
Gamecocks' Struggles Continue (Recap of USC Upstate vs. South Carolina)
South Carolina definitely knew their opponent was capable of winning on the road. USC Upstate won their first game of the season at Virginia Tech 64-63. The 5-5 Spartans also had neutral site wins over Niagara and Western Carolina. They lost only by nine points at Tennessee. Plus the Spartans had three players that averaged in double figures; Torrey Craig, Ty Greene and Ricardo Glenn, who combined average nearly forty five points and fifteen rebounds per game.
The road uniforms did not bring any luck early in the contest as it seemed that there was a giant lid on both baskets. After six plus minutes, USC Upstate was only up 5-4. Each team missed on nine of their first eleven shots. The Gamecocks also had three turnovers in the span of forty seconds.
Finally, South Carolina got going on a three pointer by Sindarius Thornwell. It was the start of a 13-1 run for the Gamecocks. A Laimonas Chatkevicius tip in put South Carolina up 17-6. During that stretch, Chatkevicius, Thornwell and Duane Notice combined for all thirteen points.
Just then I was about to type the following tweet on @gmoore21566 - "I know USC Upstate won at Virginia Tech. But based on the first 15 minutes, I cannot see how they did." And it was due in large part to the Spartans horrible shot selection. Greene, the Spartans' second leading scorer missed all four of his three point attempts. Craig was taking wild shots, which obviously were also not falling.
I was so glad I held off on that tweet. Over the last four minutes, the Spartans went on a 17-4 run. Ricardo Glenn was getting easy looks inside for layups while Craig, Fred Miller and Karim Mawuenyega nailed three pointers. Meanwhile, the Gamecocks missed nine of their eleven shots during that period of time and Thornwell added two turnovers to boot. South Carolina stumbled to the half only up four, 37-33.
Second, the Spartans were only down four, despite not getting any production from their second leading scorer. Greene, who came into the game averaging fifteen points per game, was scoreless in the first twenty minutes. Glenn, who had ten first half points and Craig with nine, made up for the lack of production from Greene, who seemingly graduated from the John Starks School of Shooting ("If you miss several times, no matter how ugly, keep on shooting").
But then in the span of minute, Henry picked up two fouls, giving him four on the game. Then Ringer, who had already picked up his third foul two minutes into the second half, picked up his fourth foul with a little under thirteen minutes left. Chatkevicius would pick up his fourth foul four minutes later. Outside of Kacinas, the whole Gamecock front court was in serious foul trouble.
The Gamecocks regained the lead on a Thornwell jumper, then two Johnson free throws put them up three, 49-46. The Spartans answered with a Mawuenyega three and a free throw each by Miller and Stephens to go up 51-49. Williams and Thornwell responded with three free throws and the Gamecocks were back up one, 52-51 with seven and a half minutes left.
The Gamecocks tried to rally, cutting the deficit to two, 63-61 on an Ellington three pointer with a little over three minutes left. But Greene responded with a three pointer of his own to put the Spartans up five. After Thornwell hit another jumper to cut the lead to three, the Gamecocks forced a turnover. With a chance to tie the game, Ellington missed an open corner three.
When Miller broke free on an inbounds play for a dunk, that sealed the game for USC Upstate, who went on to win 74-68 to give the Gamecocks their second home non-conference loss in a row. The Gamecocks only lost one non conference home game all last season.
Thornwell led the Gamecocks with nineteen points, Johnson added eleven and Ellington and Williams each had eight points. The four players combined to shoot an ugly 14 of 46, including 7 of 27 from beyond the arc. South Carolina shot thirty three percent from the field and also committed twenty four fouls, two days after committing twenty three fouls vs. Manhattan.
Having watched Martin's team the past two seasons, the Gamecocks remind me somewhat of Tom Pecora's team in his second season at Hofstra. His Hofstra teams went a combined 19-40 and in fact he had less wins in his second season, eight, than his first, eleven. But it was a young team and in his third season, the turnaround began with fourteen wins and an above .500 record in conference. Then in the next three seasons, Hofstra won a combined sixty nine games and made three straight NITs.
Of course the ultimate goal is to make the NCAA Tournament, not the NIT. But the main goal is to turn the program around. Dawn Staley's teams won a combined twenty four games the first two seasons. Look at where the Gamecock Women's Basketball team is now.
Martin and the Gamecock fan base will need to be patient. As John Hiatt might say, sometimes it's "A slow turnin. But you come about."