The words are harder and harder to come by for Frank Martin.
In a season that is spiraling downward, South Carolina might have suffered its worst home performance as LSU avenged an earlier loss to the Gamecocks with a 64-46 victory Thursday night at Colonial Life Arena.
It’s the fifth consecutive loss for South Carolina and its the first time in Martin’s college coaching career that he’s lost five games in a row.
“I’ve been doing this for 28 years, nine of which came as a junior varsity high school coach,” Martin said. “That means I dealt with 14-year-olds. I’ve never been more embarrassed to call myself a basketball coach than I am right now.”
Since the Gamecocks (12-12, 2-9) defeated Arkansas on Jan. 26, it’s been a continual downward spiral. Martin has talked about the team not taking what is being coached in practice out to the game floor. It’s beginning take it’s toll on Martin.
“Ever since the Florida game, we’ve been fighting a losing battle,” Martin said. “The desire to play is not there. I’ve always taken pride in getting guys to do what I ask them to do. Right now, that’s not happening. They didn’t bring me here to create a bigger problem. They brought me here to fix a problem and I’m not doing a very good job of that.”
Lakeem Jackson, the only scholarship senior on the roster, said the message has been the same during the losing streak.
“We have to be a little bit more prepared, more in-tune during the games and pay attention to the game plan,” Jackson said of Martin’s message after the game.
Against LSU (14-8, 5-6), it was more of the same that has transpired over the slide. The Gamecocks finished 18-of-64 from the field, a woeful 9-for-32 in each half.
They have not shot more than 40 percent in the five-game slide. That they had many open looks against the Tigers and were unable to knock down a shot was a point of contention for Martin.
He questioned the work ethic of his team.
“I thought we took good shots,” Martin said. “We lead the country in air-ball layups. If guys can’t make layups, it’s hard to win. We have guys that are supposed to make open 3s and they never make open 3s. You have to invest yourself to be good. If you don’t put in the time, that ball isn’t going in the basket for you. We have guys that don’t comprehend that. They put in the time when I make them put in the time. They don’t put in the time for the love of the game. Until that changes, we won’t get any better.”
LSU has won five of the past seven game after suffering a four-game losing streak to start SEC play. South Carolina never had an answer for the inside presence of Johnny O’Bryant. The 6-foot-9 sophomore recorded his seventh double-double in his past eight games with a career-high 30 points and 10 rebounds. His previous high was 22 points in his last game against Alabama.
In the first game against the Gamecocks, O’Bryant had nine points and six rebounds.
“Down at LSU, we kept him out of his comfort zone nearly every single possession,” Jackson said. “That’s where we were hurting. He got position down low and scored almost every time.”
Martin brought up the fact that O’Bryant, who has an SEC-best 10 double-doubles, remembered the first game and did something about it.
“He wasn’t good at their place but he, obviously, has pride in his vocabulary,” Martin said. “He made sure he remembered that when he played tonight.”
South Carolina trailed 26-24 at the half but the Tigers jumped out quickly in the second half. They increased the lead to 10 points within the first five minutes, and when Andre Stringer hit his second consecutive 3-pointer with 8:20 remaining, the lead was 52-35. That capped a 26-11 run.
The Gamecocks have a game at Alabama on Saturday afternoon. Martin hopes someone takes control of this team, even though it hasn’t happened in the first 24 games of the season.
“If the word pride is not in your vocabulary, then you have no chance of ever sniffing success,” he said. “I’m a lot of things but I have pride. I’m telling you, I’m doing this (interview) right now out of respect for you and your jobs because it is part of my job but I have never been so embarrassed. I shouldn’t coach basketball ever again if this is how my team plays.”
O'Bryant III 13-19 4-6 30, Del Piero 3-3 0-0 6, Hickey 1-6 1-4 3, Stringer 4-11 2-2 12, Morgan 0-1 0-0 0, Carmouche 2-10 0-2 5, Courtney 3-4 0-0 6, Collins 0-1 0-0 0, Coleman 0-4 2-2 2, Hammink 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-59 9-16 64.
SOUTH CAROLINA (12-12)
Carrera 3-11 2-2 8, Jackson 5-9 0-4 10, Ellington 4-14 1-2 9, Leonard 1-9 0-0 3, Richardson 2-6 2-2 7, Williams 1-3 0-0 3, Smith 1-5 0-0 2, Kacinas 0-0 0-0 0, Slawson 1-7 2-3 4. Totals 18-64 7-13 46.
Halftime: LSU 26-24. 3-Point Goals: LSU 3-13 (Stringer 2-4, Carmouche 1-6, Morgan 0-1, Hickey 0-2), South Carolina 3-19 (Richardson 1-2, Williams 1-2, Leonard 1-5, Smith 0-1, Ellington 0-2, Slawson 0-3, Carrera 0-4). Fouled Out: None. Rebounds: LSU 49 (O'Bryant III 10), South Carolina 34 (Carrera 8). Assists: LSU 16 (Carmouche 8), South Carolina 8 (Jackson 3). Total Fouls: LSU 18, South Carolina 16. Attendance: 7,486.