Before he walked out of sight, the self-proclaimed Grinch did wish a happy Thanksgiving to all and to all a good night.
To say Frank Martin was upset over his team’s play during a 65-53 loss to Elon on Wednesday night would be acceptable, but the more applicable term might be “resigned.”
Martin had watched for a week as his team’s attention to detail, particularly on defense, eroded. It was when he walked in the locker room after the Gamecocks’ 88-76 victory against Rider that he had finally had enough.
“I walked in the locker room after (the Rider game) and our guys were high-fiving each other and I said, ‘The Grinch just got here.’” Martin said. “They were high-fiving each other because we just won a game that we were up 20 with three minutes to go and (Rider) cut it to 10 with two minutes to go.
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“They were high-fiving each other and I said, ‘Well, the Grinch just showed up.’ I just showed up and ruined their night.”
So Martin proceeded to warn the Gamecocks that bad behaviors were taking root. The defensive pressure on the ball was not up to snuff. Screens were not being set quickly enough. Shooting so well from the field had masked these issues.
He wasn’t certain his message was sinking in.
“I don’t know what’s going on in their heads,” Martin said. “That’s part of my job, but we haven’t been through this long enough to understand. But I can tell you what I see, I don’t like. Here’s the good thing about me: That will change. That’s going to change. I try not to give people options about that. That will change.”
It didn’t change on Wednesday night and when the shots stopped falling, Elon smoked the Gamecocks.
“When I was in here after the last game, I had already been watching Elon and I knew what was coming,” Martin said. “When you play lifeless and selfish and you don’t sprint to screen? You don’t sprint to where you belong on the floor and you get away from the basics and fundamentals on both ends of the floor and you just rely on guys jumping up and making shots? You’re not going to beat a good team.
“You’re not going to beat a team that plays with the discipline and toughness Elon does. You’re just not.”
A Martin-coached team, when everything is clicking, will go to the free-throw line often due to physicality, especially when it comes to driving to the basket, setting tough screens and grabbing offensive rebounds.
“What I’m trying to say is a guy who sets the screen has to be able get to that spot as fast as he can and set that screen,” Martin expounded. “Right now, we might have to petition the NCAA to allow us to use some golf carts during the game. We have some guys who can’t move. It’s unbelievable. It looks like we have stones inside our shoes or something.”
A good canary in the coal mine is to compare the number of free throws to the number of 3-point field goal attempts. There have been games at Kansas State under Martin where the number of free-throw attempts even eclipsed the number of overall field goal attempts.
Wednesday against Elon: 17 attempts at the free-throw line, 19 attempts from 3-point range.
“That’s a problem. That’s a problem,” Martin said. “We don’t defend, we don’t stick to the principles of our defensive philosophies and offensively, the other day we didn’t stick by it, but we won, so everyone thinks it’s nice and dandy.”
Up next is a trip to Mexico for the final two games of the Hoops for Hope Classic. There, the Gamecocks will play Missouri State and either Arkansas-Little Rock or SMU. Coming off their first loss of the season, Martin is eager to see how the team responds.
“That’s the great thing about life,” he said. “You get what you deserve. Then, when you get what you deserve, how are you going to respond? Are you going to change, accept and grow or are you going to run away from the truth? Let’s see how we handle this.”
Stay tuned to GoGamecocks.com and The State newspaper for more on the Gamecocks over the next couple of days. We’ll have a closer look at the Hoops for Hope Classic, the evolution of Lakeem Jackson and a breakdown of the recent signing class.