All season, it’s been a team that hasn’t looked at the past, whether it was coming off a win or a loss. It’s been about staying in the moment, looking ahead and trying to finish a solid start.
That focus has never been more important than this week.
South Carolina returns to the court after a long, but not especially restful, break. The Gamecocks won their first NIT game, a dominant 88-66 win over High Point that came on the heels of five players being suspended before tipoff.
Laimonas Chatkevicius had a career-best 30 points in the victory, but the Gamecocks only dressed nine players because of the suspensions, and there has been no change in any of the players’ status for Monday’s second-round game against Georgia Tech (20-14) at Colonial Life Arena.
“I think (depth) will affect us a little, but for the most part, we still have all the key guys,” Sindarius Thornwell said after the High Point win. “We didn’t lose any key guys. For the most part, I think we’ll be all right.”
The Gamecocks (25-8) have a chance to become the best team, by wins, in program history with a win over the Yellow Jackets, a former conference brother who they haven’t played since 1977. The matchup to watch will be up top – Tech’s high-scoring guard tandem of Marcus Georges-Hunt and Adam Smith against the Gamecocks’ trio of Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier.
USC had the same plan against High Point as it did against every other team this year – throw it inside first. Chatkevicius, operating against a team whose tallest player gave up four inches to him, was a one-man gang in the paint.
It won’t be as simple this time. The Jackets can also clog the lane and their guards can shoot from anywhere. USC may have to match Tech point for point until it can get a final possession.
As for depth, the Gamecocks will play who they can play. The excitement of the moment might be enough to overcome fatigue.
“We’re going to be one of about 50 teams still playing on Monday,” USC coach Frank Martin said. “You got to be excited.”
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GEORGIA TECH (20-14) at SOUTH CAROLINA (25-8)
What: Second round, NIT
When: 9 p.m. Monday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
Tickets: Available at the box office
Georgia Tech’s probable starters: G Marcus Georges-Hunt 6-5 Sr. (16.7 ppg, 3.4 rpg); G Adam Smith 6-1 Sr. (15.1 ppg, 2.3 rpg); F Nick Jacobs 6-8 Sr. (10.6 ppg, 5.7 rpg); F Quinton Stephens 6-8 Sr. (4.9 ppg, 3.7 rpg); F Charles Mitchell 6-8 Sr. (10.0 ppg, 9.7 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Jr. (13.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Jr. (10.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 Sr. (14.4 ppg, 7.8 rpg); F Mindaugas Kacinas 6-7 Sr. (10.1 ppg, 5.2 rpg); C Laimonas Chatkevicius 6-11 Sr. (10.2 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
Next game: The winner plays the Washington-San Diego State winner at 9 p.m. Wednesday.