The seventh season opener of the Frank Martin era at South Carolina looked a tad like the first. Here’s what we learned in USC’s 65-52 win over USC Upstate on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena:
The Gamecocks still have a shooting issue
On Nov. 11, 2012, Martin debuted for Gamecock fans — all 7,335 of them — as Carolina took on Milwaukee. Tuesday’s crowd was heavier — announced attendance: 10,145 — but one thing was the same.
The Gamecocks won without making a 3-pointer.
It was an 82-75 overtime victory back then, the first game of a 14-18 season. Expectations are higher nowadays. Two years removed from a Final Four run, this Carolina team is seeking a return to the postseason. There’s plenty of potential stumbling blocks in the way, including perhaps the most difficult schedule in the Martin era. South Carolina’s stout effort, defense and rebounding — Martin staples — should show up most nights. But how far will those traits carry the Gamecocks if they can’t shoot?
Of the eight SEC teams to make the 2018 NCAA Tournament, six shot 35 percent or better from 3. USC was just under 34 percent last season, despite Frank Booker finishing third in the league in 3s made (85).
In their first game without Booker, the Gamecocks went 0 of 18 from deep.
“I feel like we had a lot of open looks,” said senior guard Hassani Gravett. “We definitely have to knock those down. Just keeping to the gym at night and getting up shots.
“I doubt that (0-for) happens again.”
A definitive point guard answer hasn’t arrived — yet
No reason to panic over Tre Campbell’s shaky debut as South Carolina point guard. The graduate transfer from Georgetown managed three points, two turnovers and no assists over 28 minutes.
“He’s practiced twice in the last 15 days,” Martin said. “He was playing real well before he turned his ankle. It’s not the injury that’s holding him back. It’s the fact that he hasn’t gotten reps in the way we play. So now the game starts and what do you do? You go back to the habits that you’ve been taught to play in.
“And he broke away from what we ask to do. So he needs reps in practice. And he’ll do them.”
Martin was more upset with USC’s turnovers (19) than the poor shooting. A.J. Lawson, who started at two-guard and took the point at times when Campbell was off the floor, had nine points, an assist and five turnovers.
“A.J. wasn’t as aggressive as he needs to be,” Martin said of the freshman. “But that’s a kid that should be in high school right now. So we’re going to have moments like those.”
Carolina doesn’t win without Keyshawn Bryant
The Gamecocks, playing short-handed with T.J. Moss, Alanzo Frink and Jermaine Couisnard sidelined, needed a bench spark when they got down 9-2 less than four minutes in. A hammer dunk from Bryant later and USC was off to a 20-0 run.
Bryant, a 6-6 freshman wing, finished with 21 points and seven rebounds in 21 minutes. The Gamecocks outscored the Spartans by 23 points when Bryant was on the floor. That was the best plus-minus rating of any USC player — Chris Silva (plus-16) was second.
Some notable debuts from Gamecock greats over the years:
▪ Sindarius Thornwell scored 14 points and grabbed four rebounds against Longwood on Nov. 9, 2013.
▪ P.J. Dozier scored seven points and handed out three assists against Norfolk State on Nov. 14, 2015.
▪ Devan Downey (as a sophomore after transferring from Cincinnati) scored 24 points against South Carolina State on Nov. 10, 2007.
“He’s got a knack to score,” Martin said of Bryant. “Some guys can jump and dunk, but he’s got a knack to score.”