Frank Martin and Buzz Williams spent a chunk of the first half on the television broadcast, offering courtside commentary with SEC Network play-by-play man Burch Antley. At halftime, both coaches were joined by their families to announce their personal $5,000 donations.
Sunday’s exhibition game between South Carolina and Virginia Tech was part basketball, part charity. The charity piece was a relative success as an estimated 3,500 spectators came to Colonial Life Arena and contributed to the “Hoops 4 Hurricane Relief” effort.
The basketball piece wasn’t always as beautiful.
The Hokies, taking advantage of some sloppy USC offense, beat the Gamecocks, 86-67. South Carolina turned the ball over 17 times and ended an exhibition season of poor shooting by knocking down just seven of 33 3-pointers. It assisted on just nine of 25 field goals.
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“I think we missed some shots, but they had a lot to do with it,” said Martin, who shared the post-game podium with Williams. “We took some good ones, we didn’t take bad ones.
“We gotta make some shots, plain and simple. It’s hard to get any flow on offense when you can’t go through a stretch where you can get three or four shots to go for you in a row. Last week, we really didn’t have that. Today we didn’t really have that.”
A major theme developed in last Monday’s 41-point win over Erskine was the lack of perimeter success. The Gamecocks, a bunch Martin once deemed the best shooting team in his decade as head coach, connected on just under 26 percent of their 3s.
They shot 21 percent from deep Sunday. South Carolina finished the exhibition season 16 of 68 on 3-pointers.
“I feel like we got a lot of shooters,” said junior guard Hassani Gravett. “So when we’re open I feel like it’s OK to take the shot, but we just got to hit more of them.”
Junior guard Kory Holden was held out Sunday due to knee soreness. (“If we were playing in a game that counted today, he would have been in uniform,” Martin said.) Veteran forward Chris Silva, USC’s leading returning scorer, only played eight minutes. Maik Kotsar, Silva’s starting mate in the frontcourt, only played three minutes in the second half. (“It wasn’t by design. I wasn’t happy with them,” Martin said.)
It all offered opportunity for the Gamecocks to experiment without their regulars. But the Hokies, playing more at full strength, stretched their lead to as many as 21 in the second half. They turned a 42-40 advantage into a 63-45 score in a span of five minutes.
“The reason we play (Martin’s) team every year (in preseason scrimmages) is I always think that it’s a gauge on how hard we play,” Williams said. “Any time you play Coach’s team, you’re going to, on the first possession, know where you stand relative to playing hard.
“We don’t play as hard as South Carolina, but I do think that we’re in that realm, where we’re not overwhelmed by their energy. So I was encouraged by that.”
Gravett led the Gamecocks with 15 points. Wes Myers (11 points) was USC’s other double-digit scorer.
Virginia Tech, NCAA Tournament participants from a year ago, had five players in double figures.
South Carolina players, coaches and support staff members received their Final Four rings prior to tip-off.
Both programs received applause for their charitable gestures throughout the afternoon.
“I thought the crowd was fantastic,” Williams said. “I didn’t anticipate we would have as many people travel to support us. That speaks to our group.
“Anything that we’re doing, honestly, I think impacts and helps all of those families. It’s probably the best thing the NCAA has done since I became a head coach.”
Added Martin: “This weekend was extremely valuable for our team.”
The Gamecocks begin the regular season Friday at Wofford.