Frank Martin: Tough times will make him, team better in long run

dcloninger@thestate.comJanuary 28, 2014 

S Carolina Missouri Basketball

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin


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    TEXAS A&M (12-7, 3-3 SEC) at SOUTH CAROLINA (7-12, 0-6)

    When: 7 p.m. Wednesday

    Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia

    TV: ESPN3

    Texas A&M’s probable starters: G Alex Caruso 6-5 So. (9.1 ppg, 3.5 rpg); G Jordan Green 6-5 Jr. (7.4 ppg, 2.4 rpg); G Jamal Jones 6-8 Jr. (11.8 ppg, 3.8 rpg); G Shawn Smith 6-4 Fr. (5.6 ppg, 3.3 rpg); F Kourtney Roberson 6-9 Jr. (9.9 ppg, 7.2 rpg)

    South Carolina’s probable starters: G Duane Notice 6-2 Fr. (6.7 ppg, 2.3 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Fr. (12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg); G Brenton Williams 6-1 Sr. (12.6 ppg, 1.7 rpg); F Demetrius Henry 6-9 Fr. (5.5 ppg, 4.2 rpg); F Michael Carrera 6-5 So. (6.9 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

    Next game: USC tips off at Ole Miss at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday.

Frank Martin laughed off a question about the impending Columbia snowstorm on Tuesday. Despite him canceling his usual news conference because of the threat of inclement weather and instead speaking on a teleconference, the city was still under a heavy blanket of overcast, dry weather in the mid-afternoon.

Having come from Manhattan, Kan., where snowdrifts could be as high as the tallest player on any of his teams, Tuesday was fine, weather-wise, for Martin. It was a light moment.

He quickly turned serious. South Carolina is 0-6 in the SEC.

The Gamecocks never have begun an SEC season 0-7.

“When you go through difficult times, you get better, not worse,” Martin said. “The difficulty in this moment right now, it’s not my players, it’s we haven’t won a game in the SEC. We get judged on wins and losses. We embrace that and we’re willing to accept that responsibility. To figure out a way to win, you have to teach better, you have to find a little patience.”

USC (7-12, 0-6) has lost by a lot and by a few. Outside of a miserable showing at Georgia, the Gamecocks have been in every game, and have continued to fight despite being down late in the contests.

The feeling that a corner is close to being turned remains, but with every loss, the corner gets farther away. It’s an unfamiliar feeling to Martin, who has never done anything but win.

Yet, he recognizes and accepts it.

“This is good for me,” he said. “I’ll be a much better coach when all this is said and done. It’s not fun when you’re in it. But this is good.”

Texas A&M (12-7, 3-3) comes to town Wednesday night for a rematch from two weeks ago, when the Aggies won 75-67 in College Station. A&M began the league schedule 3-0, but has since gone 0-3, including a home loss to undermanned Vanderbilt in its most recent game.

There are advantages to playing the same team again so soon, as USC can see what it did wrong and try to make corrections. The Aggies have those same advantages, though, and know what they did to win.

For USC, it’s about minimizing the mistakes it has made throughout the conference season — namely, staying out of foul trouble and continuing to improve on defensive rebounding. The offense continues to flourish with Brenton Williams in a groove and Sindarius Thornwell living up to his reputation as the most polished member of the freshman class.

The Gamecocks just have to make sure they can keep each, and as many others as possible, on the floor.

USC has averaged 28.3 fouls per SEC game, when it averaged 22 in non-conference play. Take out the first SEC game at Florida (20 fouls), and the number balloons to 30 fouls over the past five games, including a high of 33 at Georgia.

It’s not the new rules, although they often seem excessively called (59 in the Georgia game). Martin pointed out that USC played well under the new system in the non-conference season and now the Gamecocks aren’t.

“Our foul trouble is with guys that don’t guard the basketball, so we get beat, and now we have to rotate,” Martin said. “We’re off the ball, we’ve got guys that grab. When the ball is shot, they grab. When you do that, it’s going to be called a foul. Our players have to learn not to do that.”

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