Frank Martin warned South Carolina’s players and fans not to get too wrapped up in a two-point loss at Baylor. He was proud of the Gamecocks for fighting, but the game was a loss and exposed a lot of problems.
He was foreshadowing Sunday.
Archrival Clemson knocked USC silly in a 71-57 win, the Tigers’ second straight win in the rivalry. Using their superior size and strength to bully the younger Gamecocks into turnovers, the Tigers showed USC that success can often be a game-to-game project.
USC had a lot of it at Baylor. At Clemson, the Gamecocks (1-2) had none.
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“In life, you get what you deserve,” Martin said. “We got what we deserved today. We’ve got young guys who have gotten a little too casual. We’ve just got to learn.”
Martin criticized USC’s lackadaisical attitude in running the offense, not sprinting toward cuts and letting any flow immediately bog down. The Gamecocks started slow and allowed themselves to play how Clemson (3-0) wanted, and after a brief run in the second half to cut the deficit to one, USC didn’t seize the momentum it had gained.
Clemson junior K.J. McDaniels did that, scoring seven of Clemson’s 10 points during a key stretch while adding a blocked shot and a steal. The Gamecocks never threatened again.
Martin saw the same problems as in the Baylor game. The Gamecocks had to get into their zone defense because their perimeter defense was so lousy; Rod Hall had treated it as his personal playground on the way to 14 points. The zone allowed their offense to find a couple of easy buckets, but then not boxing out on a missed Clemson shot allowed McDaniels to slam home the rebound.
McDaniels finished with 21 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks. Clemson bigs Larry Nnoko, Ibrahim Djambo and Sidy Djitte crowded USC early as the Gamecocks fought to establish position in the paint — then watched Demetrius Henry and Mindaugas Kacinas pump-fake between them. When USC finally shot, McDaniels rose from behind and swatted the attempt for a transition basket.
USC grew hesitant to try inside and began passing the ball around, looking for an open outside shot, but the Gamecocks finished 1-of-10 from 3-point range and 23-of-65 from the field. The Gamecocks forgot what had worked so well against Baylor — going inside and playing for the foul — and had it reversed on them.
Clemson made 24-of-26 free throws. The Gamecocks went to the line 18 times and made 10.
“There’s no doubt that the physicality of the game impacted our team,” Martin said.
Kacinas hustled his way to a team-high 13 points and 12 rebounds but couldn’t be happy about it. “I’m upset that guys just didn’t play as hard as they can, as they really could,” he said in a rare burst of emotion. “I hope in the future, they’ll learn from their mistakes.”
He had a right to be angry. Kacinas got no help.
Senior sharpshooter Brenton Williams was scoreless, going 0-for-5 from the field. Ty Johnson was 2-of-11 for five points. Sindarius Thornwell scored 10 as he tried to take over, but he mustered five shots.
With no go-to scorer, the result was predictable. Johnson scored 18 points in USC’s season-opener but has 13 in two games since.
“I’m just not making shots right now,” he sighed. “I’m just keeping on trying to be aggressive.”
The Gamecocks now have a week off. It will be filled with trying to work on several issues.
“We’ve created a false sense of reality,” Martin said. “Some of the guys think that this is a little easier than it really is.”
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SOUTH CAROLINA (1-2)
Henry 4-9 1-4 9, Kacinas 6-11 1-2 13, Thornwell 3-5 3-3 10, Johnson 2-11 1-2 5, Notice 1-7 0-0 2, Williams 0-5 0-0 0, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Chatkevicius 2-3 0-0 4, Theus Jr. 0-1 0-0 0, McKie 0-1 1-2 1, Carrera 4-9 1-3 9, Ringer 1-3 2-2 4, Steele 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-65 10-18 57.
Blossomgame 0-1 0-0 0, McDaniels 7-12 6-6 21, Nnoko 1-2 0-0 2, Hall 3-7 8-9 14, Harrison 0-4 0-0 0, Ajukwa 0-0 0-0 0, Filer 3-3 0-0 8, Roper 3-8 8-8 15, Smith 1-3 1-2 3, Djambo 3-7 1-1 8, Djitte 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-48 24-26 71.
Halftime: Clemson 35-26. 3-Point Goals: South Carolina 1-10 (Thornwell 1-1, McKie 0-1, Notice 0-2, Williams 0-2, Johnson 0-2, Carrera 0-2), Clemson 5-14 (Filer 2-2, McDaniels 1-2, Roper 1-3, Djambo 1-4, Hall 0-1, Harrison 0-2). Fouled Out: Henry. Rebounds: South Carolina 41 (Kacinas 12), Clemson 33 (McDaniels 10). Assists: South Carolina 7 (Johnson, Notice 2), Clemson 14 (Hall, Roper 4). Total Fouls: South Carolina 21, Clemson 20. Attendance: 7,283.