Cloninger Soundoff: USC finds a way

Posted by DAVID CLONINGER on February 15, 2014 

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Feb 15, 2014; Columbia, SC, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) reacts to a basket against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the first half at The Colonial Life Arena.

JEFF BLAKE — USA TODAY Sports

It’s been agonizing to watch as South Carolina was so close to a lot of wins and never got that stop or big basket that could have meant victory. To some, it’s a part of the growing process; to others, it’s a sign of not showing the one thing a young team has to show as it goes through a rough season — improvement.

The Gamecocks were improving, but not in the only way they’ll be judged — wins. On Saturday, however, they showed they are getting there.

Alabama hit five consecutive field goals, all 3-pointers. In between those were five straight trips to the line, with 10 made free throws the result, as USC’s 12-point lead became a four-point deficit.

Frank Martin admitted that there was no strategy in the timeouts. The Gamecocks were gassed from a weird week where they played Thursday night as well. It was just about not giving up and finding a way.

Then, in a flash, they did. From Michael Carrera’s drawn charge to Mindaugas Kacinas’ brilliant final 79 seconds, they did.

“You need kids to learn how to stay the course,” Martin said. “Playing Clemson, playing Baylor, all those teams early in the season, prepared our guys for how hard it is to win in the league. It was a collection of plays coming down the stretch. The guys executed it perfectly.”

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