For an encore, Frank Martin didn’t disappoint.
The South Carolina basketball coach did it again Wednesday. Sure, the Gamecocks improved to 7-2 with an 80-64 win over Wyoming, but you would hardly know it by Martin’s postgame comments. He called USC “casual” in its defensive approach and noted he’s done playing Gamecocks who “jog and play soft.”
Also like Saturday, Martin didn’t shy away from responsibility.
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“We’re gonna fix it,” Martin said. “They’re either gonna put me in a box and bury me, or we’re gonna fix the problems. There’s no other alternative.”
Some takeaways from another interesting evening in Colonial Life Arena:
Sparse crowds not sitting well with Martin
South Carolina listed Wednesday’s “paid” attendance as 10,205. Martin, a former high school math teacher, counted differently.
“It would be nice if our marketing department helped us to get people in seats,” Martin said. “It’s a little disappointing to continue to play, after the two winningest years in the history of the school, in a building with [4,000] to 5,000 people. It’s embarrassing.”
Martin made a similar dig Saturday, suggesting a “golf tournament or an evaluation of seventh round offensive linemen” was happening in town that prevented folks from watching the reigning Final Four participants in person.
In 2016-17, a season after the Gamecocks won a then-school record 25 games and advanced to the NIT, CLA drew an average of 11,654 spectators during the non-conference schedule. That number was 10,797 after the first three non-conference home games.
Three games into this season’s slate and the average crowd officially stands at 11,058. The home opener against Western Michigan, a Monday night game that included an unraveling of the Final Four banner, drew 12,136. The 2016-17 home opener – played on a Friday night against Louisiana Tech – drew over 1,000 more fans (13,344).
USC is home again this Saturday. It tips off at noon against Coastal Carolina. The game is being marketed with a Star Wars theme.
Free throws woes part of ‘the problems’
Martin didn’t talk technique Wednesday when addressing USC’s free throw struggles.
“It goes back to everything with our team that I’m uncomfortable with right now,” he said following the Gamecocks going 16 of 29 from the line. “It’s our mindset, it’s our approach. It’s our casual, laid-back, ‘We’ll get there when we get there’ mentality. That has to change.
“When your mind is not connected, you’re not gonna make free throws. When your mind is connected, free throws go in the basket. We got guys that can shoot; they’re missing free throws because their mind kind of wanders too much.”
South Carolina, at 66 percent, entered the night 13th in the 14-team SEC in FT shooting. Martin’s previous five Gamecocks teams shot no worse than 68 percent from the line. After Wednesday, the current bunch is at 64.6.
Some good, mostly bad guard play
Of the eight newcomers, Florida Atlantic transfer Frank Booker has been the most productive for the Gamecocks – and that’s somewhat surprising.
The senior guard scored 16 points on Wednesday, giving him double figures in scoring for the sixth time this season. Booker did that just five times – over 30 games – last year for FAU.
He was the bright spot in the USC backcourt against the Cowboys. Hassani Gravett had nine points and two assists, but he played just eight minutes in the first half thanks to some bad turnovers. Reserve guards David Beatty, Kory Holden and Wes Myers combined for two points over 46 minutes.
“It’s still not good,” Martin said of his guard play.