In the first five minutes, everything was fine.
South Carolina was running right at Manhattan, driving to the rim, working inside-out, playing defense and holding the Jaspers to one shot per possession. The Gamecocks shot to a 10-4 lead and the thought was that if Manhattan wanted to turn the game into a track meet, let it USC was equipped to handle it.
But a turnover between two three-point plays later, the game was tied. The Jaspers kept running and the Gamecocks didnt. Their defense had no answers for a team that jammed the ball right down their throats. When the Gamecocks had to match it, they couldnt.
Frank Martin wants the offense to flow from great defense. What to do when the Gamecocks get forced into a shootout, when their defense begins to flag and they have to have a bucket?
The hope is the Gamecocks remember what theyve practiced, which is to keep running the sets, have faith in the system and if nothing else, drive to the basket, hoist a shot and get fouled. For what its worth, USC was earning enough trips to the line on Tuesday; the Gamecocks just couldnt make nearly enough to match Manhattans free throw production, much less overcome it.
The plays USC was running were working, but only in spurts. Bruce Ellington scored USCs first five points. Ellington and Ty Johnson were slashing to the basket. When the Jaspers went to a 1-3-1 defense and spread the Gamecocks out, Johnson found Mindaugas Kacinas camped on the block for an easy basket, and another entry pass was taken by Kacinas and flipped to Laimonas Chatkevicius for another two.
It stopped working. The Jaspers ran over USCs shattered defense and the Gamecocks couldnt counter. Players seemed as if they couldnt make up their minds about the best way to get the Gamecocks back in the game run the plays, or try to freelance?
Were just trying to play within the system, as coach Martin wants us to do, Johnson said. The pressure kind of messed it up a little bit, but coach Martin wants us to run plays, and not just go one-on-one, break it down, whether its open or not.
Sindarius Thornwell led USC with 17 points. Johnson had 12. Michael Carrera had 10.
The margin for error has shrunk. The Gamecocks are back at it Thursday when USC Upstate (5-5) visits. Only one way to see if USC learned anything from the Manhattan game.
Youve got to have five guys on the floor that understand their responsibility and all do it to the best of their abilities, Martin said. And were still trying to figure that out. When its easy, our guys do it. When its hard, thats where our immaturity guys tend to break stuff off, guys cant maintain focus to finish a play to the end. But its a long season.
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