Gamecocks try to get back on track at A&M

pobley@thestate.comMarch 1, 2013 

The USC men’s basketball team did not get a lot of time to lick its wounds from Thursday’s 90-68 loss against Missouri.

The Gamecocks (13-15 overall, 3-12 in SEC) return to action Saturday night at Texas A&M in a battle of two teams reeling from recent events.

The Aggies (16-12, 6-9) lost Wednesday at Ole Miss after coming out on the short end of what, arguably, was one of the best games of the college basketball season — a four-overtime defeat at home against Tennessee.

USC also is on a two-game slide, dropping an overtime game at Georgia before tumbling against the Tigers.

“The disappointing thing is, we had been doing things good and we didn’t do them well (Thursday),” USC coach Frank Martin said after the Missouri game.

Specifically, the Gamecocks suffered an uncharacteristic breakdown on defense. In their first meeting with the Tigers in Missouri, the Gamecocks did a good job of keeping Missouri out of the paint.

The second part of the defensive strategy was to take away point guard Phil Pressey’s passing lanes and force him to shoot.

As a result of successfully doing both, USC led most of the way in the first meeting against Missouri before succumbing late, 71-65.

Thursday, Pressey went wherever he wanted to, didn’t take a shot and was in total control of the game with his drive-and-dish style.

Yet USC was in the game after a strong first half. Unfortunately, the Gamecocks didn’t carry over the effort at the offensive end and the defensive faults opened the floodgates for a blowout defeat.

“At their place, we came out aggressive,” said guard Damien Leonard, who led the Gamecocks with a career-high 20 points. “Tonight, they came out more aggressive in the second half. We stopped playing aggressive.”

USC returns home Wednesday for their home finale against Mississippi State.

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WHO: USC (13-15, 3-12 SEC); Texas A&M (16-12, 6-9)

WHEN: 7 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: College Station, Texas.

TV: ESPNU

RADIO: WNKT 107.5 FM

SERIES: First meeting

COACHES: Frank Martin (13-15 in first season at USC, 130-69 in sixth season); Billy Kennedy (30-30 in second season at Texas A&M, 241-209 in 15th season)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR: Though this is USC’s first meeting with Texas A&M, Frank Martin is 5-2 against the Aggies from his years at Kansas State. … This game is Martin’s 200th as a head coach. … If there was a silver lining in USC’s 90-68 defeat Thursday night, it was the bench, which poured in 49 points, led by Damien Leonard’s career-high 20 points. … Aggies senior Elston Turner is averaging 19.4 points per game in SEC play, two points above his season average. Kourtney Roberson is the leading rebounder in SEC play with 6.9 boards per game.

Patrick Obley

PROBABLE STARTERS

GAMECOCKS

POS. HT. NAME PPG
G5-9Bruce Ellington9.7
G5-11Eric Smith5.8
F6-11Laimonas Chatkevicius4.1
F6-5Michael Carrera10.2
F6-5Lakeem Jackson7.9

AGGIES

G6-1J’Mychal Reese6.9
G6-5Alex Caruso5.0
G6-5Elston Turner17.6
F6-9Kourtney Roberson6.9
F6-9Ray Turner9.2

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