Martin eager to see how team has progressed

pobley@thestate.comDecember 18, 2012 

University of South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin talks with guard Bruce Ellington after he was fouled by Jacksonville in the second period at the Colonial Life Arena.

C. ALUKA BERRY — caberry@thestate.com

  • HOOPS DOUBLEHEADER MEN: USC vs. Appalachian State, 5 p.m. Wednesday WOMEN: USC vs. No. 1 Stanford, 7:30 p.m. Wednesday WHERE: Colonial Life Arena TV: Both games on Fox Sports South TICKETS: Men: $18 for lower seats and $15 for upper seats; Women: $7 for adult and $4 for youth (17 and under). Men’s tickets are good for the women’s game. The arena will not be cleared between games.

Frank Martin wasn’t keen on hanging around Columbia following that stinker of a week when USC was blown out at St. John’s and throttled at home by rival Clemson.

“I probably was ready to go on vacation to be honest with you,” Martin said Tuesday. “Like disappear in the Caribbean somewhere and become a bartender.”

Martin later waxed eloquent on life behind the bar, 70 pounds heavier and wearing a Hawaiian shirt, something Tony Soprano might wear.

But thankfully, there was that 91-74 victory against Jacksonville on Dec. 9. That allowed Martin to stay put as the Gamecocks attended to their final exams this past week, and it has him eager to see the team’s progress Wednesday against Appalachian State.

“After the way we played against Jacksonville, I would have like to have played the next day,” Martin said.

The Mountaineers (2-7) would not appear to offer much of a threat to the Gamecocks (6-3), but Martin cautioned against overlooking Appalachian State.

“If you sit there and look at their record, you probably say, ‘eh’,” Martin said. “You actually watch them on film and study them a little bit, you step away and say, ‘Wow, they’re good.’

“I think that’s a team by the end of the year … can become a real good basketball team.”

The Mountaineers snapped a seven-game losing streak Monday with an 81-71 win at Missouri-Kansas City. They were aided by the return of sophomore point guard Mike Neal.

“He (Neal) didn’t do much from a statistical standpoint, but all the sudden, the team scored 81 points (and) they didn’t have the turnovers they had early in the year,” Martin said.

USC, it appears, will benefit from one last appearance by Bruce Ellington. The junior guard returned to the football team for Outback Bowl practice, but received the OK from Steve Spurrier to play Wednesday.

“Bruce cares so much. I didn’t understand this a month ago because I wasn’t around him every day,” Martin said. “Bruce cares so much about what he does that he invests himself. When you have a player that invests himself, as a coach, you trust him.

“I understand why coach Spurrier trusts him. He just wanted to play. It says a lot about coach Spurrier. He’s so unselfish. It would be really easy to say ‘absolutely not’ because they’ve got a huge game coming up.”

Ellington will miss the team’s trip to Manhattan on Saturday and the Presbyterian College home date on Dec. 29. He will be back for the S.C. State game on Jan. 5.

In the meantime, the Gamecocks will play and practice without having to worry about school work until classes begin again Jan. 14. And thanks to that Jacksonville win, Martin is looking forward to it.

“The great thing is, now school is over, we can practice 14 hours a day and no one can get mad,” Martin said jokingly.

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GAMECOCKS VS. MOUNTAINEERS

WHO: USC (6-3) vs. Appalachian State (2-7)

WHEN: 5 p.m. Wednesday

WHERE: Colonial Life Arena

TV: Fox Sports Carolinas

RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM

SERIES: USC leads 3-0

COACHES: Frank Martin (6-3 in first season at USC, 123-57 in sixth season); Jason Capel (31-40 in third season at ASU)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: USC is coming off a 91-point performance against Jacksonville, the most points scored by the Gamecocks since scoring 91 against S.C. State on Jan. 4, 2011. … USC’s plus-10.8 rebounding margin is 11th nationally. … ASU beat a Division-I opponent for the first time this season Monday, winning at UMKC, 81-71. … ASU sophomore Jay Canty has five 20-point games this season, including 29 against Missouri on Dec. 1.

STARTING LINEUPS

GAMECOCKS

POS.HT.NAMEPPG
G5-11Eric Smith6.4
G5-11Brenton Williams13.2
F6-5Michael Carrera11.3
F6-5Lakeem Jackson9,1
F6-8RJ Slawson3.9

MOUNTAINEERS

POS.HT.NAMEPPG
G6-3Tab Hamilton12.3
G6-6Jamaal Trice8.7
G6-6Jay Canty18.6
F6-8Michael Obacha4.4
F6-7Nathan Healy13.2

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