Martin’s Gamecocks face tall order against Bears

pobley@thestate.comNovember 15, 2012 

Head Coach Frank Martin on the sidelines as Milwaukee visits the Colonial Life Arena for the Gamecock basketball season opener Nov. 11, 2012.

VAN HOPE — Special to The State

In the past, Frank Martin’s teams have rallied from double-digit deficits. Sometimes, they won.

Sometimes, they were summarily executed.

But what happened Sunday in this first game as USC coach was unprecedented, as far as he can recall.

“I’ve been on teams that have come back from 15-, 16-, 17-, 20-point deficits once,” Martin said. “I don’t think I’ve been on a team that has come back from that deficit twice in a game.”

Against Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Gamecocks rallied from a 17-point deficit early in the second half by ripping off 13 unanswered points. When the Panthers responded with an 11-0 run, the Gamecocks tracked them down again, eventually winning in overtime, 82-75.

“Shows a lot of resolve in the kids and the fight and willing to succeed,” Martin said.

That said, Martin isn’t a fan of all games going down to the wire. Friday against Morgan State at Colonial Life Arena, he wouldn’t mind a blowout.

“Everyone wants to win 40-point games,” Martin said. “Believe me, I’d love to sit back once in a while and not have to make every decision and be put in a place where every decision can either help us win or lose the game.”

Whether the Gamecocks can pull that off is a different matter.

The Bears, despite their 1-2 record, excel at something that gave the Gamecocks fits against Wisconsin-Milwaukee.

“Morgan State attacks you and pressures your defense off the dribble,” Martin said. The style is reminiscent of Panthers guard Jordan Aaron, who torched USC for 28 points.

“But they have more guys like him that attack you off the dribble.”

Martin said RJ Slawson and Eric Smith both should be fine for Friday’s game. Slawson came out of Saturday’s game early with cramping, while Smith went down with cramps late in the second half. Martin said their cramping was unexpected, since neither had issues at any point in practice leading up to the season-opener.

He did say Slawson is struggling to maintain his weight. The 6-8 junior had bulked up to 220 pounds in the offseason conditioning program, but has dropped to 208.

In addition to guards that can attack off the dribble, the Bears boast a huge interior. Forwards Thair Heath and DeWayne Jackson check in at 6-8 and 6-9, while center Ian Chiles is a 7-2, 270-pound bruiser. It all adds up to a team that can also do what Martin loves most.

“They rebound,” he said. “They average 40 rebounds per game. I preach rebounding. Forty rebounds a game is a whole lotta rebounds.”

This is the first of three games in a seven-day stretch for the Gamecocks., who will play host to Rider on Monday and Elon on Nov. 21.

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