Frank Martin looked at the stat sheet and shook his head. The frustration of another close loss and an examination of what led to that close loss was evident.
“We’ve got guys who have played four conference games and have yet to get a defensive rebound,” South Carolina’s second-year coach said. “I don’t understand how you don’t get a rebound.”
Martin spoke on Tuesday about the Gamecocks’ self-inflicted wounds, which have turned a potential 3-1 start in SEC play to 0-4. USC has lost its past three games by a combined 12 points, and while turnovers and missed layups also have contributed, giving opponents two or three cracks at the basket on one possession is the issue.
USC rebounded well during a 4-14 SEC season last year, finishing sixth in total rebounding and fifth in rebounding defense. This year, USC is last in the league in defensive rebounding, a full rebound behind 13th-place Alabama.
Martin said that he doesn’t believe in players finding toughness or getting tougher as a season progresses. Compounding the problem is that USC was pretty good at rebounding in non-conference play.
“That’s why I’m so disappointed,” Martin said. “We were actually rebounding the ball real well through December, and I don’t know what’s happened. You got no chance to win in conference play if you can’t get a defensive rebound.”
Heading to play Georgia, 3-1 in the SEC, is a huge concern for Martin and the Gamecocks. Martin knows USC is right on the brink of turning the season around, but one more loss or two without a win, and the goal to finish .500 or better in the SEC is in a deep hole.
The Bulldogs are great at rebounding. They’re seventh in offensive rebounding and sixth in defensive rebounding.
Big men Laimonas Chatkevicius, Mindaugas Kacinas, Desmond Ringer, Michael Carrera and Demetrius Henry will be charged with limiting Georgia’s possessions to one shot. Over the past four games, the high for any big’s defensive rebound total was four, twice posted by Ringer. Otherwise, there have been a whole lot of ones and far too many zeroes.
Both are unacceptable.
“For all of the big guys on the team, I think we’d be more effective if we all would be more active on our feet and go get the ball, not wait for it to come to our hands,” said Chatkevicius, the team’s tallest player and a starter for the first time this season last game. “Trying to box out and wait for the ball to come down is not as effective. Players have proven before that they can get the rebound. It’s not as tough physically as it’s tough mentally.”
There have been some long rebounds the past three games that have not gone USC’s way. The Gamecocks are clustered around the rim on the shot, only to see it hit back iron and shoot straight back out to the perimeter.
Yet, that’s also a problem. The Gamecocks aren’t leaving their feet in those situations, trying to stretch an arm and deflect, tap, pop or slap a ball in any direction but back to the shooter.
“If you stand around, you’re in trouble,” Martin said. “We’re real close to being 3-1. But that and 30 cents used to get me a cup of coffee. Not anymore.”
If there was a switch to flip, Martin would do it. But it’s as much about wanting the rebound as it is about being able to grab it.
The Gamecocks were doing it, now they’re not.
“I guess we have to make ourselves believe that we can go get it, and go get it,” Chatkevicius said. “The mentality of the team is pretty decent, I would say. We just got to go get it.”
Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState