There wasn’t going to be a lot of back-slapping from the coach after Saturday’s 78-45 hammering of Akron. Frank Martin is the living example of never getting too high with the highs or too low with the lows.
Winning was great, don’t get Martin wrong. He loved it for his kids as much as they did.
But that feeling by itself won’t win the next game.
“I tell them in the locker room, understand what you’ve done that’s allowed you to feel good, and build on that,” Martin said on Saturday. “Don’t relax and take a step back.”
He drove the point home by talking about Monday night’s opponent. Martin is so respectful of Marshall’s ability that the first two words out of his mouth were “Oh, boy.”
“They might be the most athletic team we’ve played this year,” Martin continued. “They fly around. If we do what we did today, which is run good offense, pass the ball, not hold the basketball, set good screens, make good cuts, and not turn it over, I’m not going to say we’re going to be OK, but we’ll have a chance. If we play loose with the ball, we get careless, we jog our cuts, we turn it over, it’ll be a track meet for those guys, because they are ultra-athletic.”
South Carolina (5-6) is hoping to keep everything it’s learned in the past week in mind as it tries to build a home winning streak. The Thundering Herd are reeling, having lost five of six and without the services of leading scorer Elijah Pittman, who has been suspended since Dec. 9.
Still, the Gamecocks aren’t going to count any game as a “should-win.” Every game is one they “can” win.
“I think we understand the game and we’re doing a good job of listening to the plays that coach calls,” said forward Michael Carrera, who has turned in back-to-back strong games. “We’re getting better on defense, and I think that will help us.”
USC was better at everything against Akron. The Zips dug their own hole by not making a field goal for nearly half of the second period.
The Gamecocks shot 44.4 percent from the field, including eight 3-pointers, had at least six points each from six players and played great defense. There wasn’t the standing around on offense that had been seen in USC’s first few games, and the Gamecocks were more physical than Akron.
USC’s confidence is restored, as long as the team does what Martin says — remembering what earned the win and applying it to the next game. Of course, a 5-6 record isn’t going to have USC thumping its chest, even if it was 2-5 a week ago.
“Credit our staff and our kids for keeping all that outside noise shut out and believing in one another,” Martin said.