Frank Martin after South Carolina snaps 4-game skid: ‘Winning is always better than the alternative ...’
Ten hours before midnight on New Year’s Eve and Frank Martin was in casual wear. No suit, no tie. Just a garnet quarter-zip and black pants.
The South Carolina basketball coach wasn’t his typical animated self during USC’s 97-46 rout of North Greenville on Monday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. Perhaps it was the nature of the opponent (Division II) or the urgency he sensed from his team.
The Gamecocks (5-7) will not enter the SEC portion of their schedule on a five-game losing streak. Carolina came off a good stretch of post-Christmas practices with a dominating performance over an inferior foe.
“We’ve practiced real well the last three days,” Martin said. “We’re learning how to practice. I like how we started the game.”
The Crusaders (1-11) were well on their way to an 11th straight loss after USC opened a 16-3 lead. The Gamecock advantage grew to as many as 25 in the first half. It reached 40 at the 12:31 mark of the second half.
“We’ve practiced pretty hard these past three days,” said senior forward Chris Silva. “So getting out there, we didn’t really execute the way we wanted to, but that’s a part of the team growing up and learning. ... We got the win.”
A.J. Lawson scored 22 points and Silva added 21 points with nine rebounds. Keyshawn Bryant (19) and Tre Campell (11) were the other Carolina players to reach double figures in scoring.
Losers to a DII team in an October exhibition, the Gamecocks didn’t mess around this time.
“This team is immature,” Martin said. “I don’t say immature to create an excuse, to accept losing. I say immature because we play the opponent instead of playing the game. And when you only get 30 of these a year, and you ever take one opponent for granted, shame on you. You’re not going to be very successful at anything if you take one for granted and you only get 30 of them a year.
“And the last couple months, when we have played against the opponent rather than play the game, we haven’t done real well. And when we’ve played the opponent and it’s been a big game, we’ve elevated how we’ve played. We’ve actually looked like a pretty good basketball team.
“So that’s the journey for this team. How to understand to not be immature and not think selfishly and be worried about what we have to do so we can continue to grow as a team. Part of that journey is to learn how to play the game and not the opponent.”
Star of the game: Lawson scored 10 of his points in the first four minutes of the second half. The flashy freshman was a terror in the open floor.
Play of the game: A familiar scene this season: Lawson to Bryant alley-oop. The latest rookie connection came at the 9:22 mark of the first half that put the Gamecocks up 29-10.
“Me and Keyshawn,” Lawson, “we just got that chemistry.”
Stat of the game: South Carolina threw down a season-high eight dunks. That attacking nature also led to 28 free throw attempts.
A subtraction, an addition: Coming off productive games against nationally respected opponents, Alanzo Frink was unavailable Monday due to suffering a left ankle sprain at a recent practice. The freshman wore a boot on his right foot.
“I got no idea how long he’s out for,” Martin said. “It’s a sprained ankle. It’s not a high ankle sprain. It’s just a normal sprain. There’s a good amount of swelling.
“Any time there’s a sprain, the first thing trainers want is for the swelling to go down. And then the next thing they look for is range of motion and strength. As soon as the swelling goes away, which today was a lot better than yesterday, then they’re looking for range of motion and strength. As soon as he can meet that criteria, he’ll be back on the floor.”
Frink’s now missed seven games this season due to injury. His absence came after combining for 17 points and 15 rebounds in losses to Virginia and Clemson. T.J. Moss, a freshman point guard who could redshirt this season after suffering a high ankle sprain two weeks ago, rolled around on a scooter as the Gamecocks warmed up Monday. Sophomore forward Justin Minaya also remains sidelined with a knee injury.
Carolina did get back Maik Kotsar after he missed a couple games with a concussion. The junior had seven points, eight rebounds and a career-high six blocks.
Scary moment: Silva was wincing and favoring his left leg after a collision at the 7:11 mark of the second half and USC up 46.
The All-SEC forward needed help back up to the floor. He walked on his own to the bench, but didn’t return to the game.
“I tried to take a charge and he kind of came at me pretty hard,” Silva said. “He kind of hit me in the knee. And his elbow kind of hit me in the throat. I had problems with breathing. My knee’s fine. It’s just going to be sore. I’m good.”
Walk-ons walk in: South Carolina walk-on players Nathan Nelson and Raymond “Quad” Borup made their season debuts with under two minutes left.
Borup scored Carolina’s final bucket of the afternoon.
Who: South Carolina at Florida
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Florida
NORTH GREENVILLE 46
Tate 2-9 1-2 5, Howell 4-8 3-7 11, Mobley 0-1 0-0 0, Myers 3-9 2-2 8, Burchette 3-8 0-0 6, Conley 0-2 0-1 0, Kirkpatrick 1-3 0-0 2, Brooks 0-1 0-0 0, Holliday 0-1 0-0 0, Arrlington 4-10 1-1 13, Jackson 0-2 1-2 1, Raines 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 17-55 8-15 46.
SOUTH CAROLINA 97
Haase 1-4 2-2 4, Bryant 8-12 2-4 19, Silva 6-7 8-8 21, Lawson 8-13 3-4 22, Campbell 4-9 0-0 11, Cudd 0-1 0-0 0, Kotsar 1-3 5-6 7, Nelson 0-2 0-0 0, Gravett 2-7 2-2 6, Hinson 1-6 2-2 5, Borup 1-1 0-0 2. Totals 32-65 24-28 97.
Halftime_South Carolina 48-25. 3-Point Goals_North Greenville 4-16 (Arrlington 4-9, Myers 0-1, Brooks 0-1, Holliday 0-1, Raines 0-1, Burchette 0-3), South Carolina 9-24 (Campbell 3-6, Lawson 3-7, Bryant 1-1, Silva 1-1, Hinson 1-4, Nelson 0-1, Gravett 0-4). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_North Greenville 33 (Tate 12), South Carolina 41 (Silva 9). Assists_North Greenville 10 (Mobley 4), South Carolina 17 (Gravett 9). Total Fouls_North Greenville 21, South Carolina 17.