David Cloninger

Never get too high with the highs

Justin McKie, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice salute the crowd after beating Michigan.
Justin McKie, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice salute the crowd after beating Michigan. online@thestate.com

Frank Martin put it perfectly.

“We didn’t all sign up to do this for a game, or for a week or a month,” he said after South Carolina’s 61-46 handcuffing of No. 25 Michigan on Wednesday. “We signed up to do this for a season.”

It’s saying, “This is a great, great, great win that will look awfully nice on that regular-season ledger we turn into the selection committee in March. But it don’t mean squat unless we keep winning.”

I get it, I do. The Gamecocks dominate a game that most thought, “Well, they could win, I guess” and the postseason starts dancing in fans’ heads. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think that same way, but last year taught me anything is possible (like 24-8 power-5 teams being left out. Yes, I’m still incredulous).

Handily beating Michigan speaks. That’s one that definitely goes in USC’s positive side of the ledger in March.

But it’s November. Five games in. Another Top 25 opponent on Saturday. And the SEC, where USC has posted four winning seasons in 25 years, awaits.

No need, or want, to celebrate now because it can go south in a hurry. Martin and his players don’t think it will, but again …

Last year.

“We’re going to go play people,” Martin said. “I need our players to understand how hard winning is.”

The Gamecocks have height and depth they haven’t had, and everybody’s contributing. Sindarius Thornwell feels the best he ever has and is playing like it. They’ll only get stronger, when Sedee Keita (collegiate debut on Wednesday) gets back to full strength, TeMarcus Blanton does the same and Evan Hinson joins the team after the bowl game.

Yet it’s one game, Michigan is. As good as USC looked, it’s one game. Long, long way to go, starting in Brooklyn on Saturday.

See you there.

EXPECTED: Dawn Staley’s women sledgehammered the opposition in three games, as they were expected to. Now comes another big test, to lead off a big stretch.

Fourth-ranked Louisville in Springfield, Mass., Sunday. Then a trip to No. 14 Texas, and a trip to Duke.

This is the schedule Staley wanted to put together to test her team. Big on top of big on top of big. Of course I’ve had a few people apprehensively mentioning, “Boy, they’re really good” in reference to the opponents.

My reply: “Sure, but USC’s pretty good, too.”

Alaina Coates is playing the best ball of her career. For A’ja Wilson to have what’s been judged as a few off games and impact the way she has shows how well off the Gamecocks can be this year. Allisha Gray may be the best player of them all by the end of the year and Kaela Davis can take over at any time.

Staley has the same task as Martin. It’s hard to win. USC has several players who make it look easy but there are a lot of newcomers this year. They have to experience the way the Gamecocks do business.

The Cardinals are a strong team. It’s on a neutral court. The Gamecocks can count on a busload (if not three busloads) of fans for the Duke game but this one, not so much. How do they respond?

See you Sunday.

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