Gamecocks mired in offensive slump as losses pile up

pobley@thestate.comFebruary 12, 2013 

It is something that happened twice last season.

It is something Frank Martin has not experienced as a college basketball head coach.

As USC prepares to play host to LSU on Thursday, the Gamecocks will be hoping to avoid the first five-game losing streak of Martin’s career.

Still, while much has gone wrong during the current four-game losing streak against Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee, the Gamecocks remain in better standing at 12-11 than last season’s 10-21 flameout, which featured losing streaks of four, five and six games in succession to close out the campaign.

Of particular frustration during Sunday’s 66-61 loss against the Volunteers was the Gamecocks’ backsliding offense. It has been a gradual deterioration, Martin said, dating to the first half of the game at Florida.

Confidence is behind much of it, Martin said.

“Going into the Florida game, we were playing offensively pretty good, defensively pretty good,” he said. “Then, since that 12-minute mark in the first half of that Florida game, we’ve gotten deflated. We’ve lost that edge that we had worked so hard to build. I think it has affected our offense, our defense, everything.”

Extremely poor shooting hampered any hopes USC harbored against Georgia, then Kentucky’s aggressive shot-blocking duo short-circuited any consistency in the Gamecocks’ third consecutive setback.

Looking back at season’s end, that 77-55 loss in Lexington might stand out as USC’s low point. Not only did the team lack confidence at both ends of the court, it no longer appeared to be following the plan laid out by Martin and the coaching staff. So evident was it that Martin had thrown up his hands that he was asked after the game if he had stopped coaching.

“I’m not a cheerleader,” he said. “We practice every day, you correct problems in practice, then the game starts and guys aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do, what am I supposed to do? Put on a show on the sidelines so people think, ‘Oh, wow, look at him, he’s really trying to coach?’

“No,” Martin continued. “Everything I said to do, they didn’t do, so what am I supposed to do? … Obviously, I did a crappy job of coaching because what I was asking guys to do they weren’t doing, so you don’t fix that during a game.”

Rather, it gets fixed in practice, Martin said. Freshman forward Michael Carrera said this past Friday the team’s practices had been good and spirited. Those results were visible during Sunday’s game, according to Martin.

“Against Tennessee, I thought defensively we actually tried,” he said. “We didn’t rebound the way we needed to, but I thought we tried a little bit better than we had the previous three games. That tells me that our guys’ desire was in the right place.”

Against LSU, the Gamecocks will have to continue to build on that defensive momentum by working to put a charge back into the offense.

“We’ve become real stagnant again offensively and you can play stagnant offensively if you have a difference-maker, a guy that can just go get his shot,” Martin said. “I used to do that with a guy named Michael Beasley (but) I never thought that was a great offense.

“We don’t have that but that’s OK,” Martin added. “It means we have to play offense with more energy, we’ve got to spring faster than our opponents, we have to screen better than our opponents and whenever we get a shot, we need to go make sure we rebound every ball.

“That’s what we were doing that had given us the chance to succeed,” Martin concluded. “And I kind of saw that again in the Tennessee game.”

Martin twice before sustained four-game losing streaks at Kansas State — one in each of his first two seasons. Each time, the team rallied to reach postseason play.

The Gamecocks will have an opportunity to build momentum by playing host to LSU, one of the two league teams it has defeated this season, followed by a toss-up road game at Alabama.

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