The Daily Gamecock

Men's basketball set for Hawaii trip over break

Women’s basketball to play No. 18 North Carolina

While most of the students at the University of South Carolina will be spending their winter break relaxing, the men’s and women’s basketball teams will be hard at work getting into the grind of the regular season.

The men’s squad is 2-2, and after this Friday’s game against No. 9 Oklahoma State, it does not play again until Dec. 17 when the Gamecocks face Manhattan at home. Two days later, the Gamecocks will host USC Upstate in a battle of South Carolina schools.

Coach Frank Martin said that once winter break hits and campus empties out save for the athletes, it is more of a struggle for him to keep track of his players.

“Once we get past the Oklahoma State game is the time of year that’s most difficult for me to manage,” Martin said.

Perhaps it is not all hard work for Martin and his players, as the Gamecocks will take off for Honolulu over the break to play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic. South Carolina opens the tournament with St. Mary’s and will play two more teams that will be determined as the tournament progresses. The Gamecocks could potentially play for the tournament’s championship on Christmas, but no matter what, they will have a game on that day.

South Carolina then has three successive home games against Akron, Marshall and South Carolina State before beginning SEC play at No. 15 Florida on Jan. 8. The last game over winter break for the men’s team is at home vs. LSU on Jan. 11.

A bunch of new faces have made a splash to start the season for the Gamecocks. True freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell leads the team in scoring with 13 points per game. Junior transfer guard Tyrone Johnson leads the team with slightly less than five assists per game and is second on the team with a little more than 12 points per contest. Freshman forward Demetrius Henry has shown promise through the first four games, averaging nine points and roughly six rebounds per game.

Bruce Ellington will be back on the hardwood this weekend and over the break, after finishing up the regular season as wide receiver for the Gamecock football team. Ellington can play point guard for South Carolina, but will probably be more of a role player off the bench in his senior season of basketball. He will play a few games over break before returning back to football to practice for the upcoming bowl game.

The women’s basketball team is off to hot start at 8-0 with a game against Charlotte this Sunday. After that matchup, the No. 12 Gamecocks do not play again until Dec. 18 in the Myrtle Beach Classic against No. 18 North Carolina.

South Carolina is back at it again on Dec. 20 against Winthrop, the first of three consecutive home games, with the next two matchups coming against South Carolina State and Savannah State.
The Gamecocks begin the new year and conference play at Arkansas on Jan. 2. Then South Carolina has two straight home games against Vanderbilt and a talented No. 5 Kentucky team. The last game before the new semester starts is on Jan. 12 at Auburn.

Sophomore guard Tiffany Mitchell has started off the year strong, averaging 15 points and slightly more than four assists per game. The pleasant surprise for coach Dawn Staley has been freshman center Alaina Coates. She has averaged more than 13 points and 8.6 rebounds through the first eight games. Junior forward Aleighsa Welch is putting up almost identical numbers with 13.5 points and 8.4 rebounds per game.

The games against North Carolina and Kentucky will paint a good picture of where the Gamecocks are as a team. If they can come away with victories in both or even lose by a narrow margin, this South Carolina team could be poised for a deep run in the NCAA Tournament.

“This young basketball team with just one senior, they just get better every single time out,” Staley said. “Hopefully when we continue to get stiffer competition, we’ll be prepped and ready to perform as we’ve performed the first eight games of the season.”s


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