Why bring up the past?
To keep it from happening in the present.
South Carolina was doing just fine last year, erasing a 2-3 start with seven straight wins, the last over No. 9 Iowa State. Votes were starting to come in for the Top 25 and the Gamecocks were looking to challenge for a top-four finish in the SEC.
USC lost six of the next seven. While the Gamecocks clawed back to still have a winning season, a “bad month” in Frank Martin’s words sapped all of the joy from the hot start. So with the Gamecocks returned to Columbia fresh off a Paradise Jam championship and 5-0 for the first time under Martin, he hasn’t hesitated to bring up last year.
“Yeah, absolutely,” Martin said, going back to his usual line of not caring about outside expectations and prefacing what he believes in. “I’m into using past experiences to help prepare for the future. That’s something we talked about after the game. We got 25 more games to play, at least.”
It’s terrific that USC is winning. The Gamecocks, led by their seniors, have taken on some strong, senior-led, hot-shooting teams in the early season and beaten all. Having gotten through the first stretch, a four-game homestand should be a piece of cake, right?
That’s the kind of thinking that led to a bad month last year. Martin was already wary of returning to cold and overcast Columbia for an afternoon game the day after Thanksgiving, having spent close to a week in the sun and sand. He sure didn’t need his players strutting.
He didn’t have to worry.
“It shouldn’t be too hard for us. I think we’ll be fine,” senior and Jam all-tournament selection Mindaugas Kacinas said. “We as a team have talked about that. (5-0) doesn’t matter, it’s just in November.”
“We did some good things last year and then we put ourselves in a bad place,” he said. “I’ll be surprised if they fall in the same trap.”
USC takes on Lipscomb (3-4) on Friday to start the next chunk of the season. As holidays and finals loom, the Gamecocks will be playing in staggered doses – two games in four days, then four days off, USF at home, then nine days off.
It’s a chance to take care of academics so the spring can be enjoyed and to rest from a pretty grueling stretch. It’s also a chance for the players to reflect what got them here – and to make plans to stay.
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LIPSCOMB (3-4) at SOUTH CAROLINA (5-0)
When: 2 p.m. Friday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network Plus
Tickets: Available at the box office
Lipscomb’s probable starters: G J.C. Hampton 6-0 Jr. (14.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); G Josh Williams 6-5 Jr. (11.3 ppg, 3.3 rpg); G Nathan Moran 5-9 So. (11.0 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Eli Pepper 6-8 Fr. (6.6 ppg, 8.0 rpg); C David Wishon 7-2 Sr. (6.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 Fr. (6.8 ppg, 4.2 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Jr. (13.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Sr. (14.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 Sr. (10.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg); C Laimonas Chatkevicius 6-11 Sr. (16.2 ppg, 4.6 rpg)
Next game: The Gamecocks host Western Carolina at 7 p.m. on Monday.