Cloninger Soundoff: Big men must improve play

Posted by David Cloninger on January 22, 2014 

Jan 22, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks forward/center Desmond Ringer (32) tries to pass against Georgia Bulldogs forward Tim Dixon (5) during the first half at Stegeman Coliseum.

DALE ZANINE — USA TODAY Sports

— South Carolina wants to run its offense through its big men, and with so many opponents having the same mentality, the Gamecocks’ big men must be relied on on defense as well.

That’s hard to do when they can’t stay on the floor.

Once again, USC’s frontcourt of Demetrius Henry, Desmond Ringer, Michael Carrera, Mindaugas Kacinas and Laimonas Chatkevicius couldn’t stay out of The Land of WhistleBench as the Gamecocks were shelled 97-76 by Georgia on Wednesday. Henry had his first foul 31 seconds into the game, Carrera had his first 20 seconds later.

With two starters already collecting fouls, Frank Martin had no choice but to start substituting. Ringer and Kacinas fared no better, each picking up three in the first half, while Henry and Carrera each got another one. Chatkevicius mostly stayed clean in the first half but still ended with two. Martin was so thin that he had to sub in little-used freshman Reggie Theus Jr. to stretch the half.

Nothing helped. With nobody to throw the ball in to, USC had to rely on its guards, who were dwarfed by Georgia’s guards. With nobody to defend the paint, the Bulldogs drove the lane early, and when USC adjusted, stroked 3-pointers. Chatkevicius fouled out with two points and 11:28 to play, and he was the high-scoring big man at the time — Henry had one.

“For one, maybe we could start getting a defensive rebound off a missed free throw,” Martin said. “They don’t block shots, they don’t score, they don’t rebound when it’s a live play. Maybe we can get them to rebound a missed free throw. If we can start there, maybe we can take a step after that.”

What’s the answer? Understanding the new foul rules and not doing them. Remembering what triggered success in the nonconference season. Most important, not giving up.

Although as the losses mount, that’s getting harder not to do.

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