It’s another one of those games.
Taking into account the depleted state of his roster and the team’s overall play throughout the season, USC men’s basketball coach Frank Martin cannot overstate the need to overestimate all foes.
So it goes with Saturday’s visitor, S.C. State. The 4-9 Bulldogs lug a four-game losing streak into Colonial Life Arena. The three most recent losses have been by 51, 46 and 36 points, but it’s the Bulldog’s 70-61 loss at Albany that caught Martin’s eye.
“There are some pieces there,” Martin said. “I think Albany’s pretty darn good and S.C. State went into Albany and it was a two-point game with a minute and a half to go.
“They’re good. Remember, Albany went into Washington and won at Washington.”
Since then, there has been a 102-51 loss at Missouri, a 90-46 loss at Iowa and a 77-41 setback at Clemson.
“A couple of games have gotten away from them,” Martin said. “But it’s hard, playing so many road games.”
Then there’s the squad sitting on Martin’s bench. A group that will be without the services of LaShay Page, who has been ruled ineligible for the remainder the season, Bruce Ellington, who is recuperating from football season, and Michael Carrera, who is nursing a left hip injury.
Page’s loss became official on Friday. Though the team loses his 11.7 points per game, the Southern Miss transfer had been largely ineffective since the Hoops for Hope Classic in November. He also missed time with a stomach virus in addition to being held out of the team’s past two games.
USC overcame the absence of Ellington and Page during their easy victory against Presbyterian. In fact, the team posted a season-low nine turnovers in the process.
“When you consider our team, we’re not the most talented group of guys in the history of basketball,” Martin said. “So for us to be good, we’ve got to be good every day. We can’t take days off.
“I think you guys saw that earlier this year when everybody was raving because we scored 90 against somebody,” Martin said, referring to the 88-point performance against Rider. “And I was sitting there telling everybody that we were getting ready to get dinged. Elon came in here and dinged us.”
With the SEC season looming, Martin said his only goal for the Gamecocks now — and for the remainder of the season — is to be better tomorrow than they were yesterday.
“That’s what I want to keep my focus on,” Martin said. “I want to make sure our guys’ mindset is not locked into predetermined notions of whether we’re good enough or not good enough, whether we had a bad day yesterday, a good day yesterday.
“I’m trying to teach. That’s what we get paid for,” Martin added. “We’re still educators, even though we’re using basketball.”
WHO: USC 9-3, S.C. State 4-9
WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
WHERE: Colonial Life Arena
RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM
SERIES: USC leads, 18-0
COACHES: Frank Martin (9-3 in first season at USC, 126-57 in sixth season); Tim Carter (67-104 in 6th season at SCSU; 227-256 in 17th season)
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: USC coach Frank Martin stopped short of calling this a trap game, but did note the Bulldogs’ marked improvement from a 83-55 blowout loss to Albany in November to a 70-61 setback in a rematch at Albany last month. Matthew Hezekiah has come on strong for the Bulldogs, leading the team in scoring during the past four contests, averaging a little more than 14 points per game. For USC, Eric Smith continues to improve at point guard, averaging 5.7 assists to three turnovers during the past three games. Brian Richardson and Damien Leonard have made the most of their opportunity to play for the shorthanded Gamecocks. Leonard is coming off a 15-point performance while Richardson has reached double-figures in four consecutive games.
- Patrick Obley
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