Consistency Is Gamecock’s Main Problem


In the grand scheme of life, eightteen days isn’t a very long time, but to the South Carolina Men’s basketball team, it must seem like a lifetime ago.  On January 4th, the Gamecocks were fresh off a neutral court win over a Top Ten ranked Iowa State team in Brooklyn.  ESPN Bracketologist Joe Lunardi had them included in his 68 team NCAA tournament projections, and things were looking bright heading into SEC play.  This season’s feel and direction are now swaying in a much different direction, and the foundation this team built with strong showings in December, is in danger of collapsing.

After last night’s home loss to Tennessee, Coach Frank Martin was understandably frustrated, and it showed in his press conference.  Despite surefire backlash, perhaps Martin should have taken a page from Coach Spurrier’s presser after a deflating loss to UT this football season, and not taken any questions afterwards.  Yes it was that bad.  The tension and saltiness in Coach Martin’s answers was palpable, but he endured and finished his press conference, and in the process, let his team know he was not happy with them.

“We continue to slide, instead of grow, and that is why I’ve been talking about leadership, focus and energy.  We have had none since we got back from New York, and we haven’t handled success real good.”  Frank Martin said to open up with the media after a disappointing 66-62 loss to Tennessee that dropped his team to 1-4 in SEC play.

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The first obvious problem with this team is its outside shooting, with no pure shooter on the roster; the Gamecocks are at 30% as a team from beyond the arc.  The problems run deeper than just making shots, as Martin stated postgame; “Practices have become a drag.”  The effort and focus of his team is now concerning him, and as anyone who has played sports before has been told, if you practice well then you will play well in the games.  Right now USC appears to be doing neither.

The team defense, on which early season success was built, has also fallen off.  After holding a high scoring Iowa St. team to 1-18 from 3, the Gamecocks have twice allowed opponents to shoot over 50% from deep in their 4 SEC losses.  In the other two losses they fouled too much and gave opponents over 30 free throw attempts.  The relentless pressure on defense and attacking of the glass on both ends is no longer a 40 minute mindset for Martin’s squad, and has only comes in spurts in league play.  Long scoring droughts have also plagued this team.  A combination of poor outside shooting and a reluctance to drive the ball against the zone have led to stagnate periods on offense, and they are no longer getting as many extra opportunities through offensive rebounding.

The troubling thing is that each loss in SEC has come due to a different deficiency.  Florida controlled the glass, and got to the FT line, while Ole Miss stifled USC with their zone holding them to a season low 49 points, and hit 7-14 threes to spark their own offense.  In a close loss at Auburn, Martin’s team shot 50% from the field and had a 58-53 lead with only 4 minutes left to play, but were again beat on the boards and allowed the Tigers to shoot 33 Free throws to only 15 attempts for themselves.  Tuesday night against the Volunteers, the Gamecocks were down by as many as 17 in the 2nd half, as UT shot 10-18 from beyond the 3 point line.  A late rally fell just short when Justin Mckie’s 3 point shot went halfway down and rolled back out off the rim.  In each of these games South Carolina has had a scoring drought that allowed its opponent to either build a cushion, pull away, or come back to win.

It is not just the team but individuals that are struggling to find consistency as well.  The Gamecocks have yet to have a game where Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice both shoot well, and the rotation of big men seems to rotate who plays good and who is invisible.  Laimonas Chatkevicius, 6’11 junior from Lithuania, had his third double-double of the season in the loss at Auburn, and followed it up with zero points and one rebound at home against Tennessee.  Conversely, 6’9” Sophomore Demetrius Henry had 12 points and 8 boards on Tuesday night, but only after posting zeros across the stat sheet the game before.  This team has players needed to turn the season around, but the lack of consistency in both team play and it’s individual players is becoming more and more frustrating as the losses mount.

South Carolina showed early in the season the ability to bounce back from a tough stretch of games, and are more than capable of beating good teams.  The focus and energy that propelled this team to success in the non-conference needs to return fast, in order to save this from being just another lost season in USC’s basketball history.  Currently at 1-4, with games against probable NCAA tourney teams UK, @LSU, UGA, @Ark coming up, these Gamecocks are desperate for a turnaround.  For a program that has had 5 consecutive losing seasons, a strong finish to the SEC schedule is necessary to break that streak, and restore some of the foundation that early season success was being built on.