Frank Martin, rocking a loud garnet jacket previously seen in the NCAA Tournament, remained relatively reserved during South Carolina’s exhibition rout of Erskine on Monday evening.
The USC coach waited until after the 85-44 win to express his main concern.
“That’s why I usually keep my mouth shut,” Martin told a room of media members at Colonial Life Arena. “I go out and say we’re a good shooting team, and we go 1-for-156 in the second half.”
When given the opportunity this preseason, Martin hasn’t been shy in his offensive evaluation of the 2017-18 Gamecocks. This bunch is the best shooting team he’s had in his decade as a head coach. He said that in Columbia. He said that in Nashville during SEC media day.
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Monday, facing a severely out-sized Division II opponent, South Carolina players were eager to test Martin’s theory. The Gamecocks took 35 3-point attempts against the Flying Fleet, making just nine of them. They were 1-for-15 in the second half.
“Some shots were off-balance or not shots we usually take,” said senior guard Frank Booker, who hit a team-best three 3s on his way to 11 points. “We’re going to try to get the ball inside more, play inside-out basketball.
“Today was just an exhibition game. Everybody’s nervous, everybody’s trying to get their shots up. As a team I feel like we’re still jelling, we’re still figuring each other out. It’s a brand new team. So as the season goes on, we’ll figure it out.”
USC last season averaged 19.8 3 attempts a game. It only topped 30 once – and that came thanks to four overtimes at Alabama.
Was Monday a preview of a new offensive approach?
Martin said the high number of perimeter attempts was partly due to limited action for veteran forward Chris Silva (15 points and nine rebounds in 15 minutes) and the influx of new faces in the backcourt (Monday marked South Carolina debuts for Booker, David Beatty, Kory Holden and Justin Minaya).
“Some of those other guys aren’t ready to be interior scorers yet,” Martin said of bigs Khadim Gueye (three points over 15 minutes) and Felipe Haase (four points and 12 rebounds over 24 minutes), among others. “So when some of those other guys are in there, you’re naturally going to get more jump shots from your guards.
“We’ll find a happy balance in there. That’s why I have multiple guys who can shoot. As a coach I have to make sure that they’re taking good shots.”
Despite the cold showing from 3, the Gamecocks still shot just under 44 percent from the field. The Fleet was held to under 30.
Erskine, which went 10-20 last season, was minus-24 on the glass. South Carolina had 30 second-chance points.
“That’s a talented basketball team right there,” said Fleet coach Mark Peeler. “We knew they’d be extremely athletic and long. We knew we would have a hard time getting shots up, but they were able just to take us out of what we were trying to do offensively.
“We just don’t see that size at our level.”
Silva, who started alongside Minaya, Booker, Maik Kotsar and Hassani Gravett, led four USC double-digit scorers. Minaya, a freshman, had 13 points. Gravett had 10 points, three assists and five turnovers.
South Carolina is back in exhibition action Sunday against Virginia Tech.