The sweaters matched the game.
Frank Martin watched South Carolina win a contest on Sunday as ugly as the togs he and his coaching staff wore for a special promotion Sunday, 78-52 against Division II Coker. The Gamecocks won their fifth in a row to match the longest streak of Martin’s tenure. They played cleanly (over 18 minutes in the middle of the game without a turnover), and their big men continued to flourish.
But it wasn’t pretty – whether it was a hangover from beating Clemson or playing two games in less than 48 hours or thinking, “Hey, it’s Coker, let’s get outta here for Christmas.”
“It’s hard to move forward if you’re stepping back,” Martin said. “We didn’t handle this real well today.”
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Despite the big-men success (Laimonas Chatkevicius and Demetrius Henry combined for 32 points), there were far too many missed chip shots. Sindarius Thornwell continues to be on estranged terms with his game. Nobody seemed terribly interested in putting it to bed early, with the Gamecocks (7-3) not breaking it open until 16 minutes remained.
Martin spent most of the game seated, arms crossed over his sweater (a blessing), Colonial Life Arena so quiet one could hear every flat note from the trumpet player and every razor-tinged directive from Coker coach Dan Schmotzer. What could Martin say?
Bad game. But a win.
“Immaturity. We had guys on Twitter an hour and 20 minutes before the game,” Martin said. “We had to play an SEC game today, I wouldn’t be sitting up here answering questions with positive (connotes). When you look at things down the road, we took a step back today.”
There were good spots, even great spots. Chatkevicius, Henry, Ty Johnson and Duane Notice were in double figures. USC wound up shooting 48.4 percent. The Gamecocks stole 11 balls, blocked nine shots and had 29 defensive rebounds.
Then there were bad spots. Thornwell got a technical for bumping and jawing with Aubrey Daniel on a trip up the court (Daniel was teed up as well). For a team with a decided height advantage, USC didn’t seem to figure that out until the first 10 minutes were gone. As glorious as the win over Clemson was, the players didn’t grasp that that game won’t carry the rest of the season.
“Coach told us, ‘Good teams play the right way every possession, every minute,’ ” Johnson said. “If you want to be a good team, we got to play every possession.”
USC turned a 12-point lead to 20 four minutes into the second half as the posts continued to score. The game was no longer in doubt but Martin wanted more.
The Gamecocks had a chance to hold a fourth straight opponent under 30 percent shooting, something Martin said he’d never had during his career. USC slipped up just enough at the end to deny the chance, Coker (3-5) finishing at 31.
Martin still praised the defense, saying that the top factor of this year’s team did its job. The defense didn’t let the offense’s mistakes take it down. USC is on a nine-day break for Christmas and with Martin’s words after an ugly game, but a win, ringing through the Gamecocks’ heads, perhaps the next game won’t be as fingernail-shredding.
“You’re going to have a tough time convincing me that everybody in that locker room was under the same mindset that we’ve been coming into this game,” Martin said. “We still have two more non-conference games to play and 18 more to play in SEC league games. We weren’t very mature.”
NOTE: Coker played the game as an exhibition, so the result did not count toward the Cobras’ win-loss record. Division II schools are allowed to list games against Division I teams as exhibitions, as long as they announce it before the season. USC counted the game as a win, but it does not count toward USC’s RPI.----------
Marshall 0-0 0-0 0, Bethel 5-15 1-1 14, Scott 4-14 2-3 12, James 3-8 2-5 8, Watson 2-6 3-3 7, Preston 0-1 0-0 0, Daniel 2-8 1-1 6, Hall 1-1 0-1 2, Craig 1-2 0-0 3, Mens 0-1 0-0 0, Davenport 0-1 0-0 0, Buchikos 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 18-58 9-14 52.
SOUTH CAROLINA (7-3)
Thornwell 2-6 0-0 4, Johnson 4-7 3-5 12, Notice 6-12 5-6 19, Chatkevicius 8-12 0-2 16, Henry 6-8 4-5 16, Stroman 0-2 0-0 0, Theus Jr. 0-2 0-0 0, McKie 1-6 0-0 2, Carrera 0-3 0-0 0, Kacinas 3-4 1-1 7, Steele 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 31-64 13-19 78.
Halftime_South Carolina 35-23. 3-Point Goals_Coker 7-21 (Bethel 3-8, Scott 2-9, Daniel 1-1, Craig 1-2, Preston 0-1), South Carolina 3-11 (Notice 2-4, Johnson 1-2, Steele 0-1, Thornwell 0-1, Theus Jr. 0-1, McKie 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Coker 31 (James 15), South Carolina 47 (Carrera 8). Assists_Coker 8 (Bethel, James, Preston 2), South Carolina 21 (Stroman 8). Total Fouls_Coker 21, South Carolina 16. Technicals_Daniel, Thornwell. Attendance_8,419.