Men’s basketball: USC needs to rebound

Exhibition showed an early, glaring weakness

pobley@thestate.comOctober 31, 2012 

There were a lot of good things to take away from USC’s 68-67 exhibition victory against Kentucky Wesleyan on Tuesday night.

Brent Williams just might be a clutch scorer.

The team appears to be in superior shape, as evidenced by seven players wearing out the visiting Panthers at the end of each half.

There’s a surplus of speed in the backcourt and no shortage of effort down low.

However, to be a Frank Martin team, the Gamecocks must rebound the basketball and do whatever it takes to get the ball in the paint. That’s why, even though the shooting Tuesday night was lackluster and the ballhandling at times suspect, nothing made Martin more annoyed then getting outrebounded and taking shots without running the offense.

“Our attention to details is nowhere near where it needs to be,” Martin said.

Case in point: Martin burned timeouts on each of USC’s final two possessions when he saw the team failing to execute the drawn play.

“I wasn’t planning on taking timeouts, but then the game gets like that and it’s my job to help these kids win,” Martin said. “So I took those two timeouts ... and we had guys who didn’t execute coming out of those timeouts.”

But that’s a correctable matter, Martin said. So, too, is the team’s rebounding woes.

The smaller Division II Panthers outrebounded the Gamecocks 35-31. While Lakeem Jackson grabbed 10 rebounds and freshman Michael Carrera had seven, the Gamecocks got virtually nothing from the combination of 6-foot-8 RJ Slawson and 6-11 Laimonas Chatkevicius.

Chatkevicius in particular drew Martin’s ire last week during the team’s public scrimmage.

“If he grabbed a rebound out, call me, because it might have been the first,” Martin said following the scrimmage. “I’m tired of falling asleep watching the tape and not seeing him grab any.”

Martin said Chatkevicius needed to show the same “recklessness” with his body as Carrera, who has been fearless to the point of breaking teammate Damien Leonard’s nose while cleaning the glass.

“He’s gotten in way better shape and, as you can tell, he keeps up with the game now rather than lumber around,” Martin said that day. “He can create a presence for us offensively at the rim. We need him to play.”

Tuesday night, despite being active, Chatkevicius routinely was shoved out of the way in scrums, though he did show some fire, demanding the ball (his calls fell on deaf ears for the most part) and setting screens.

The problem: He and Slawson combined for one rebound in 39 minutes.

“(Slawson) and Laimonas combined played 39 minutes, grabbed one rebound?” Martin said. “You put me out there, eight knee surgeries, 55 pounds over what I should weigh at 46, and you play me 39 minutes? I promise you, I’ll grab more than one rebound. You’ve got my word on that.”

The good news is the Gamecocks should be closer to fully manned by the Nov. 11 season-opener.

Guards LaShay Page and Damien Leonard should give the team added ability to keep the pressure on defenses, while post player Mindaugas Kacinas should provide added bulk to the thin interior.

“I don’t think we’re ready yet,” said guard Eric Smith. “But we did some good things. We definitely have got work to do.”

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