Gamecocks Men’s Basketball Searching For an Alpha Player


Frank Martin’s Gamecock basketball team got back into the win column on Tuesday night, with a 65-60 victory over the Missouri Tigers at Colonial Life Arena.  Unfortunately, the same problem that has plagued his team throughout SEC league play was apparent again; South Carolina needs an Alpha player.  While the defense was once again solid and his team’s effort and energy can rarely be questioned, the need for a big time take charge player is glaring.  Scoring droughts have hampered this team all season, with both outside shooting and finishing in the paint being major issues.
By saying their main need is an Alpha ball player, I mean they need someone who can, and wants to, end one of those scoring droughts, and take the pressure shots that this team has not been able to make all year.  Basketball is, on all levels of play, a game of runs and sometimes a team needs a player who can step up and break a scoring drought by creating and making his own shot.  Throughout this season, the Gamecocks have been lacking a player like that. 

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While the game at Vanderbilt may be the biggest sign of this problem, it is certainly not the only sign. USC had a 12 point lead with 13 minutes to go in Nashville, when they gave up an 18-0 run to a young Commodore team that has struggled most of the year.  Another long spell without a made basket, and what looked like a solid road win quickly turned into the most disheartening performance of the season.  It was the 3rd road game in SEC play, along with contests at LSU and Auburn, which the Gamecocks have had a lead in the 2nd half, only to go ice cold on offense and let a victory slip away.  They had no one who could, or would step up, take the ball and say, ‘We need a bucket, I got this.’  Too often in all three of those eventual losses, the Carolina got stagnant on the offensive end, content to just pass the ball around the perimeter of the zone, before eventually hoisting up a shot seemingly just to avoid a shot-clock violation.  No one was willing to take the onus upon themselves and be the one to aggressively look to score.

This same trend began to creep up Tuesday night, but the Gamecocks finally had a player step up to the challenge.  With Missouri having whittled their 8 point 2nd half lead to just three, Sindarius Thornwell hit a three pointer that basically salted the game away. He finished with 14 points 5 boards and 6 assists and 2 steals in the win.  For the first time since the early January upset of Iowa St in Brooklyn, Coach Martin saw one of his player step up, take, and make a big shot late to help finish off an opponent.  Thornwell has been trying to step into that role, but he has been mired in a season long shooting slump.  Despite his shooting woes, he has managed to score in double figures each of the last 8 games, after failing to do so in the first 3 SEC contests this year. With the inconsistency of other players on the team in SEC play, it is a good sign that the sophomore guard has strung together some solid performances in a row.

“I’ve been looking for somebody to step up and be willing to take ownership of this team, Sin did the last two days (in practice) and obviously he did again today in the game.” Coach Frank Martin said after the game.

The hope now is to get more consistent play from the whole team, coupled with the possible emergence of a leader in Thornwell, the Gamecocks finish this season as strong as they did last year.  Ending the season with a winning record and the chance for any kind of postseason play would be huge for this young team and for the program Coach Martin is trying to build.

* Help is also on the way for the Gamecocks, with a solid recruiting class that has two of the Top 100 seniors in the country committed to play here.  McDonald’s All-American and Gamecock legacy P.J. Dozier is a do it all guard capable of either making or creating good shots, and should have an immediate impact on the offensive end.  Chris Silva is a 6’8” forward that will upgrade the athleticism of South Carolina’s front court, both finishing at the rim and protecting the rim on defense.  Also looking to bolster the squad in the future will be two of this year’s freshman, wings TeMarcus Blanton and Shamiek Sheppard have been held back by injuries this season, with the former out for the year and the latter having only played sparingly.

* South Carolina hit’s the road next for two straight in SEC play, with a trip to Rupp Arena to play Undefeated and #1 Kentucky followed by a visit to Athens to square off with the rival Bulldogs of Georgia.