Jacksonville’s starting lineup looks rather puny on paper, but at this point, USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin isn’t going to take the Dolphins for granted.
“They are as aggressive and physical as can be,” Martin said of tonight’s opponent at Colonial Life Arena. “They play really hard ”
Then Martin used the “E” word.
“They remind me of Elon a little bit.”
And that’s why all bets are off for the Gamecocks in their final game before exams. Elon, of course, administered a 65-53 defeat simply by running its offense and defense consistently and taking advantage of the numerous times USC imploded while trying to run its own offense.
“It’s embarrassing. I wish I could use another word,” Martin said of USC’s offensive woes. “We’ve lost three games and all three games have basically been lost with our inability to play offense.”
Jacksonville’s lineup ranges from 5-foot-9 to 6-6, but the Dolphins play with a toughness that allowed them to match USC’s victories against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Missouri State in the Hoops for Hope Classic.
“They don’t shoot the ball as well as Elon’s guards, but they play with the same physicality,” Martin said. “Elon was a physical team. They are going to come in here and punch us in the mouth and see if we can punch back. That’s how they play.”
If USC can make some strides on offense, they should be able to punch back. The key word being “if”.
“Our offense is so bad for numerous reasons, it’s too long to sit here and explain right now,” Martin said. “It deflates us. It brings a negative tone. We don’t pass, we don’t screen, we don’t know the concepts that we need to play with and those things fall on my plate.
“Those are all coaching things,” Martin concluded. “We have to do a better job of teaching, demanding and seeing them execute. That’s something that has got to be fixed.”
Following tonight’s game, USC will be off until Dec. 19, when the Gamecocks will play host to Appalachian State.
WHO: USC (5-3), Jacksonville (4-5)
WHEN: 7 p.m.
WHERE: Colonial Life Arena
TV: Fox Sports Carolinas RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM
SERIES: USC leads, 3-1
COACHES: Frank Martin (5-3 in first season at USC, 122-57 in sixth season); Cliff Warren (104-119 in eighth season at JU and overall)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: It will be a homecoming of sorts for former Gamecock football player Brad Edwards. The 2003 USC Hall of Fame inductee took over as Jacksonville’s athletics director this past summer. JU coach Cliff Warren is two wins shy of tying Hugh Durham for second all-time in school wins (106). After leading USC in scoring through six games, LaShay Page has five total points in his past two contests. This will be Bruce Ellington’s final game with the basketball team until after the Outback Bowl.