Among the numbers to review from South Carolina’s 77-72 loss to Augusta on Friday night, USC coach Frank Martin referenced seven — as in the number of timeouts he still had with him at the postgame news conference.
“Didn’t I keep all my timeouts with me today?” Martin asked. “They told me I can carry them to the next game.”
He was half-joking, but the point was clear: Had the Gamecocks carefully navigated the final 10 minutes, perhaps they wouldn’t have left Colonial Life Arena with an exhibition loss to a Division II opponent.
“Give them credit,” Martin said of a Jaguars squad that went 16-13 last season out of the Peach Belt Conference. “(Augusta coach Dip Metress), I thought he was coaching for the national championship the way he was running plays and attacking matchups and all that.”
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Martin, who was his typical animated self during the game, was upbeat about the lesson his Gamecocks learned as a result of it.
“I’m kind of happy that I kind of let it happen, for lack of better words,” Martin said. “Because we weren’t very good in practice this week. And we got so many new guys on our team that I’m still trying to figure some stuff out.
“So I just kind of let this happen.”
But what happened is still seen as a surface-disappointment. Ten days before the real season opener, a team with some NCAA Tournament buzz couldn’t keep a 12-point first half lead. The Gamecocks missed 13 free throws, committed 16 turnovers and allowed Augusta, down 72-71 with 1:17 to play, to score on its final three possessions.
Jaguar forward Tyvez Monroe hit the go-ahead jumper with 37 seconds to play.
“My sophomore year, we played Wichita State and lost by (six),” Monroe said, rattling off recent examples of Division I competition. “We played Clemson last year — that’s ACC, that’s big-time — and they beat us by like 20. And this year, we played South Carolina. So I’m kind of used to this, honestly.”
South Carolina last season got used to Chris Silva’s foul trouble. That made an unfortunate return Friday as the All-SEC forward picked up his fourth with 10:19 remaining and never returned to the floor.
“He means a lot on the court in general — offense and defense,” senior guard Hassani Gravett said of Silva. “We need Chris on the floor. He can’t keep committing those fouls that he’s been committing. He’s got to get better at that. It’s just something he has to work on. All of us have things we have to work on.
“But his inside presence is definitely needed. So it’s better for us to have him on the court than on the bench.”
Gravett led Carolina with 18 points. His back-to-back jumpers gave the Gamecocks their last advantage with 1:17 left.
Martin said he was most frustrated by the play of Silva (seven points, four rebounds, 14 minutes) and fellow veteran big man Maik Kotsar (four points, seven rebounds, 27 minutes).
“I’m disappointed in the two big guys that have played more games than anyone around here,” Martin said. “Neither one came here to play.”
Martin debuted four new players, including point guard Tre Campbell. The graduate transfer from Georgetown had 13 points in 17 minutes before exiting with 17:41 left due to a minor ankle injury.
Martin’s final substitution came with 7:21 left. The USC lineup from there: Kotsar, Gravett, A.J. Lawson, Felipe Haase and Justin Minaya.
Lawson led all rookies with 12 points.
“I could have called timeouts and ran plays and stopped the bleeding,” Martin said. “I ain’t worried about the score.”
USC led by as many as 12 points in the first half before it got cold from the field. The Gamecocks made four of their first five shots, but missed 17 of their final 24 in the opening period. Campbell’s coast-to-coast layup at the first half buzzer gave USC a 39-36 lead.