Frank Martin said after Wednesday’s 80-52 win against Texas A&M that he liked playing teams a second time in a season.
The closeness of the first game — South Carolina lost to the Aggies two weeks before Wednesday — made the second meeting intriguing. The Gamecocks could look at what they did wrong in the loss and correct them, although it also gave A&M a chance to look at what it did right in the win and try to repeat it.
More than that, Martin wanted the rematch. It’s something he’s always cherished.
“I’ve always been a big fan, if somebody beats us, I can’t wait to play them again,” Martin said. “That’s big for me. You beat us? That’s all right, it happens. Well, I can’t wait, I’ll figure out what that date on the schedule is, and I’ll be as in-tune as I ever am for that game. Just means our kids embrace the challenge.”
Martin has a chance to avenge another defeat and grab the Gamecocks’ second straight SEC win after beginning the league slate 0-6. Again two weeks from the last meeting, USC rematches with Ole Miss on Saturday.
The Gamecocks lost 75-74 to the Rebels in Columbia two weeks ago, a game where USC played well in front of its biggest crowd of the season but didn’t finish. Brenton Williams made three free throws and then tracked down an errant inbound pass to give the Gamecocks life with 1.8 seconds to go, but Sindarius Thornwell’s desperation shot at the buzzer was short.
With restored confidence after pummeling A&M and nabbing an elusive first SEC win, USC heads to Oxford hoping to ride that advantage — and the knowledge of playing Ole Miss before — to another victory. The Rebels saw a four-game winning streak snapped when Tennessee romped over them Wednesday.
“It definitely gives us confidence,” Williams said. “Texas A&M was the first team that we’re going to play for the second time. That kind of motivated us before the game. We’re getting ready to head on the road to Ole Miss, which we lost by (a point) here in our building. We’ll come back to practice tomorrow and build on what we did in this game.”
When the SEC expanded last year, the league put in a new 18-game scheduling format. With an eye on keeping “historical” rivalries intact, the league gave each team five home-and-home series (four at random, one against a permanent rival) and eight single games against the rest of the SEC, regardless of geography. USC received series with A&M, Ole Miss, Auburn, permanent-rival Georgia and Florida this year.
The A&M and Ole Miss games fell back-to-back and two weeks between each set. USC will rematch with Georgia on Feb. 22, host Florida in its final home regular-season game on March 4 after beginning the regular season in Gainesville and then play two games three weeks apart against the Tigers.
The system is still in the tryout phase, although it’s in place for another season. Most coaches spoke in favor of it at SEC Media Days, and as Martin said, the series give teams a chance to use the revenge card.
Heading to Ole Miss gives USC that opportunity. The Gamecocks know they have to do what every opponent tries to do to the Rebels — contain their best player, Jarvis Summers, and don’t let their best shooter (and instigator), Marshall Henderson, get hot. USC also will have to do a much better job on Anthony Perez.
Perez had been averaging 4.5 points before he scorched the Gamecocks for 22 points in the last game. He went to the free-throw line 12 times. USC has had a big problem guarding big men, and it’s going to be a long day if Perez is allowed to repeat his performance.
Then again, the Gamecocks’ Williams and Duane Notice combined for 13 points against Ole Miss previously, and had 37 against A&M. The Rebels have to update their scouting report, too.
“They’re growing,” Martin said of his team. “It tells me that they don’t get wrapped up in the outside noise, that they get zoned in on what we’re trying to do, and they do it with confidence. That’s what you want as a coach. Today’s game is the most in-tune we’ve been for 40 minutes at all five spots, all year.”
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