When it was an exhibition game, Frank Martin did it because he felt South Carolina needed to practice the situation. When the game mattered, Martin did it because he felt it gave the Gamecocks their best chance to win.
The final 10:18 of USC’s 83-81 loss to Stony Brook on Friday failed to feature an on-court appearance by Chris Silva. Carolina’s All-SEC forward never returned to the floor after picking up his fourth floor at the 10:18 mark.
In fact, Martin never considered it.
“Did you see him play?” the Carolina coach asked to a reporter. “I was watching the game just like you.
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“You can’t mess up. A.J. Lawson and Tre Campbell are trying to guard the ball and (Silva’s) man set nothing but ball screens in the second half. He’s yet to guard the ball-screen one time. And if he’s not going to guard the ball-screen, they’re going to kill my guards.
“So I took him out.”
The Gamecocks (1-1) outscored the Seawolves, 28-25, down the stretch with Silva on the bench. The 6-foot-9, 223-pound senior finished with just seven points and four rebounds. He missed four of his five field goal attempts, including a dunk try in the second half.
Silva, who had 13 points and 11 rebounds in USC’s win against USC Upstate on Tuesday, has now committed four or more fouls in 60 of his 102 career games in a Gamecock uniform (59 percent). It’s 61 if you count last month’s exhibition loss to Augusta. Because of the nature of that game, Martin chose to sit Silva for the last 10:19.
Martin’s reason then? “If he’s going to start doing this nonsense of fouling every, like, non-aggressive play he can possibly figure out to foul, then we need to learn how to play without him in a close game.”
The real thing happened Friday and the Gamecocks came up short. All Silva could do was watch from the sideline.
“My freshmen (Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant) really tried, Tre Campbell (15 points) really tried,” Martin said. “We got nothing from the older guys.”
Here’s what else we learned from USC’s first home loss to a non-Power Five conference opponent since 2013:
Maik Kotsar is still in his sophomore slump
And that’s not a good thing for a guy two games into his junior season.
Kotsar, a 6-foot-11 forward, failed to record a rebound Friday. That’s a first in his college career. Came on a night, too, when the Gamecocks were owned on the glass. Stony Brook was plus-16 in rebounding margin. The Seawolves scored 24 second-chance points off their 22 offensive boards.
“It’s on me and Chris to go get the rebounds,” Kotsar said, “which we just didn’t.”
USC was last beaten this bad on the glass by Florida last February. The Gators were plus-20 in a 65-41 rout of the Gamecocks.
Martin is more ‘disappointed’ than ‘frustrated’
Here’s the good about USC’s uneven start to this season: In A.J. Lawson and Keyshawn Bryant, the Gamecocks have a couple exciting freshmen who can really attack the rim and aren’t afraid of big moments. The two represent 42 percent of Carolina’s scoring through two games.
The bad: Trusted veterans like Silva and Kotsar have hardly looked the part.
The ugly: The Gamecocks, with three freshmen sidelined for various reasons, have nine players available — for games and practices.
“It’s hard to replicate a real game in practice because we’re hurt and we got first-year guys,” Martin said, “and they don’t comprehend that yet. ... I’m not frustrated at all.
“I’m disappointed in the three guys that have played the most games wearing the uniform — in Chris, Hassani (Gravett) and Maik — disappointed that all three of them are not playing well.”