The Daily Gamecock

Learning experience for South Carolina basketball team

Young team overcomes adversity during 82-74 exhibition win

After holding a comfortable double-digit lead through the majority of the exhibition game against USC-Aiken, South Carolina met some adversity midway through the second half.

The Gamecocks turned the ball over and Aiken went on a 13-0 run that trimmed the South Carolina lead down from 21 to three.

If this game counted, coach Frank Martin would’ve called a timeout during that run to try and settle his team down. But since this was an exhibition, the second-year coach wanted to see how his young team handled the situation. So he kept sophomore Michael Carrera on the bench and waited it out.

“That game doesn’t count on my record or our NCAA resume,” Martin said. “We had to learn. It was a great moment for them to take ownership and learn.”

Brenton Williams, the only senior on the roster who is currently playing for the Gamecocks, was out on the court for the entire run and was the one who took ownership and led his team out of the slump.

Williams nailed a long three-pointer with 6:45 left in the game to give South Carolina a six-point lead and the shot jump-started a 14-0 run by the Gamecocks that the team rode to an 84-72 victory.

“You have to understand how to manage a negative moment to figure out a way to make it a positive moment,” Martin said. “Basketball is a game of runs. The whole idea is that you want your runs to be 12-2 or 12-3 and you want their runs to be 7-4.”

Carrera’s 14 first-half points and freshman Sindarius Thornwell’s 10 points in 15 minutes gave the Gamecocks a commanding 44-27 lead at halftime. However, Carrera played just one minute in the second half because Martin was unhappy with his maturity and leadership.

Williams said that he began to see the freshmen’s composure start to rattle when Aiken went on its run and it was then that he realized his leadership position.

“It really did come to reality during that game that some of the freshmen were looking to the older guys for answers because they looked kind of confused out there,” Williams said. “We just told them that this is college basketball and teams are going to make runs like that. We’re not supposed to allow them to happen but they tend to happen.”

Overall, Martin said he is happy with his team right now, and for good reason. Ten different players scored a basket and freshmen stepped up to the plate and provided for the team.

Freshman guard Duane Notice dished out six assists to go along with eight points and more importantly, committed just one turnover. Freshman Justin McKie also contributed six points and four rebounds.

Sophomore big-man Laimonas Chatkevicius also had a big game, scoring 10 points and grabbing 11 rebounds to notch a double-double.

“We’ve got guys that are multi-talented and interchangeable,” Martin said. “So physically I’m good. Mentally is where our challenges are going to be.”

South Carolina held Aiken to a 30.3-percent field goal percentage and forced 16 turnovers while blocking seven shots.

Defense has long been a staple of Martin’s teams and Aiken coach Vince Alexander noticed a difference between Ole Miss, who the Pacers lost to in overtime last Friday, and the Gamecocks on Sunday.

“Carolina takes so much more pride on defense,” Alexander said.


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