USC Men's Basketball

The recent USC basketball trend that’s become symbolic of the Gamecocks’ season

Tendency to rally for SEC wins reflective of USC’s season, says Frank Martin

South Carolina has erased double-digit deficits to win multiple SEC games in 2018-19.
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South Carolina has erased double-digit deficits to win multiple SEC games in 2018-19.

Frank Martin will turn 53 next month. It’s just that this South Carolina basketball season has him convinced he’s approaching his 70s.

The Gamecocks’ rally past Texas A&M on Saturday was their fourth SEC win in which they’ve come back from a double-digit deficit.

“I’d rather us not be down 13, 14,” Martin said Monday. “That accelerates the aging process a lot. But it’s a fun ride.”

USC hosts Ole Miss on Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena with the winner moving into sole possession of fourth place in the SEC standings. The Gamecocks (13-12, 8-4 SEC) and Rebels (18-7, 8-4) are both surprises to have such an opportunity. Ole Miss, under first-year coach Kermit Davis, was picked in the preseason to finish last in the league. Had media members had a chance to resubmit that poll around Christmas, it’s likely the Gamecocks would be pegged to land in the SEC cellar.

But that narrative started to change when Felipe Haase threw that baseball pass to Chris Silva and South Carolina shocked the Gators in Gainesville.

Silva’s dunk with 2.5 seconds left proved the Gamecocks were better than their 5-7 non-conference record, but also that they could never be counted out of a game. Florida seemingly had a stranglehold of USC that evening, leading by 14 with 11 minutes left.

Carolina has since rallied for similar victories against Vanderbilt (down 12 with 13:51 left), Arkansas (down 13 with 15:37 left) and A&M (down 10 with 19:48 left).

“That’s one of the things that makes me proud of these kids,” Martin said, “because if you actually look at those games, it’s kind of a microcosm of our season. Like, things didn’t go our way for numerous things back in the first part of the year. We’ve lost games, we’ve had injuries and lineups have changed, Jermaine’s (Couisnard) situation. It’s just been one thing after another.

“And for whatever reason, they keep coming back. They don’t go away. They don’t ever sit down and say, ‘Man, we just can’t get this done.’ And it’s the same way in games.”

Silva closed the Arkansas win by scoring eight of USC’s final 14 points. He made all four of his free throw attempts in the final minute of the A&M win.

“We had to learn to play the full game, 40 minutes,” Silva said. “So it doesn’t matter how much time is left on the clock, those guys just keep playing. If we’re down five or down 10 or whatever, we want to play until the clock runs out.”

Gamecock reunion

According to his social media posts, Sindarius Thornwell was hosting a party in Charlotte late Saturday afternoon in connection with the NBA All-Star Game.

Perhaps that’s why Silva sprinted to see the former Gamecock standout following the Texas A&M win.

“Sin, when he’s here, he’s just like in and out,” Silva said. “You really can’t get a hold of him.”

Thornwell, now with the Los Angeles Clippers, and Dozier (Boston Celtics) were among the 13,473 at CLA to see USC’s sixth home victory in seven tries.

“It’s good to see them come back,” Silva said. “We got like a brand-new amazing locker room and for the young guys to see those people that made it possible for these locker rooms to change and become whatever it is right now, it’s important. They need to learn that when they’re seniors, they got to do something like that where freshmen are coming in and know that OK, the program is at this level because of what they did before.”

An early visitor

Martin had good reason for being a few minutes late to his Monday news conference.

“There was someone I can’t speak about on campus that I didn’t expect until later in the day,” Martin said. “And we’re just sitting there talking and I looked at my phone ... I apologize about that.”

Cliff Omoruyi, a four-star center in the 2020 recruiting class, was at South Carolina for an unofficial visit. Omoruyi is rated by Rivals as the nation’s No. 56 player and by 247Sports as No. 59. The 6-foot-10, 230-pounder attends Roselle Catholic in New Jersey, the same school that produced Silva and Alanzo Frink.

NEXT GAME

Who: Ole Miss at South Carolina

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Colonial Life Arena

TV: SEC Network

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Andrew Ramspacher has been covering college athletics since 2010, serving as The State’s USC men’s basketball beat writer since October 2017. His work has been recognized by the Associated Press Sports Editors, Virginia Press Association and West Virginia Press Association. At a program-listed 5-foot-10, he’s always been destined to write about the game. Not play it.
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