The Daily Gamecock

Men's basketball wins exhibition against Benedict


The South Carolina men’s basketball team unofficially opened its 2014-15 season Sunday with a 92-47 victory over Benedict College in an exhibition matchup.

More important than the final score against an inferior opponent was the attitude the team came out with and execution of fundamentals, two things head coach Frank Martin was pleased with.

“Real happy with our guys,” he said. “I thought we played to the way we practiced. Guys were more mature, were stronger. It was good to see our guys playing through the disciplines that we teach. That's what happens when you have experience on your team. You have guys that believe in the culture and they embrace it and they understand it.”

The culture Martin mentioned has been his top priority since accepting the head coaching position in March of 2012. Now entering his third season, he feels his team is ready to take the next step in the growing process.

One of the highlights of Sunday’s exhibition was the return of senior guard Tyrone Johnson. In his first game action since suffering a foot injury against Texas A&M in January, Johnson scored 23 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including four three-pointers.

The Villanova transfer,  who appeared in 16 games last season before the injury,  said he was happy just to put on the South Carolina jersey again.

“Sitting out for half a season and being able to be out there with my brothers and playing for my coaches and coaching staff, it felt great,” Johnson said. “It was a great opportunity for us as a team to grow and we got a chance to play. Overall, I think it was a great job for us. This is just a stepping-stone for us.”

Five Gamecocks registered double-digit points, including sophomore guards Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice, who had 14 and 10, respectively. Junior forward Michael Carrera led South Carolina with a game-high 15 rebounds.

Though the start of the regular season is still 17 days away, the Gamecocks have already paid a price of the tenacious mentality Martin has instilled.

Martin announced after the game Sunday that junior guard Austin Constable is out for the season with a torn ACL. Freshman guard TeMarcus Blanton will also miss the 2014-15 campaign with a hip injury sustained in practice.

Even when junior forward Brian Steele (recovering from knee surgery) and sophomore guard Justin McKie (concussion) return, the Gamecocks will have 11 healthy players on their roster. Only nine players dressed for Sunday’s exhibition.

Martin said his coaching staff is considering holding tryouts for walk-ons to potentially add manpower to their practice drills. However, Martin said he is hesitant to disrupt a locker room that he has worked so hard to manage.

Overall, Martin feels that returning nearly the entirety of last year’s team is going to go a long way in his team reaching new heights this season.

“We’re in a better place as a team, and it’s all because we got experience and balance,” Martin said. “They understand what it takes to win a game, and they don’t take it for granted.”