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November 2, 2013
Gamecocks face test in exhibition opener
USC-Aiken (0-0) at South Carolina (0-0)
You want an exhibition test?
You got it.
Mississippi, an NCAA Tournament team last year and picked seventh in the league preseason, needed overtime at home to edge USC-Aiken 75-70 and escape embarrassment Friday night.
Now, the Pacers, who advanced to the Elite Eight of the Division-II NCAA Championships last year and are ranked No. 4 in the preseason rankings for this season, get the chance not only to put a scare into another SEC team but perhaps notch a signature - if still only exhibition - victory this afternoon at the Colonial Life Arena.
For head coach Frank Martin, a win would be nice, but he's looking for more than that right now. Some maturity, for example, would be nice.
"Our maturity...," Martin said, trailing off and shaking his head. "You know, when I get mad at my little son, he gets mad and goes in a corner and doesn't speak to anybody. He kind of sits in the corner, puts his head down and makes a frown, rolls his eyes. We got some of that going on right now. We gotta grow up from that age right now.
"When you go somewhere and there's an older guy ahead of you, you go home and complain that I don't play you. Now you're at a place where there's jobs wide open, and you go home and complain that that job is kind of hard and you don't want to handle it? That's the problem with maturity, and we're trying to deal with that right now."
With seven new freshmen on the team, maturity issues are par for the course. What Martin does like, however, is their personality.
"I like our team, we have a personality on our team, which is important," Martin said. "
"They're excited. They want to do well. They care. They speak to one another on the court. There's a sense of unity.
"We've made progress. We have to start playing games so the reward isn't me patting them on the back or getting on them when they do something wrong, the reward is now winning and losing."
Three keys to victory
Hold the point - With Bruce Ellington gone until January playing football and Villanova transfer Ty Johnson unavailable until mid December, finding someone to play point guard in their absence will be key. That may be Thornwell, it may be freshman Duane Notice, it may be freshman Jaylen Shaw. We'll find out starting today.
Score - That may sound obvious, but finding scorers out of these freshman will be key early this season. Scoring was a problem last year, and now Brenton Williams is a year older with more experience and confidence, Thornwell was a top-40 national player and Carrera improved his perimeter game over the summer.
Notes: Senior guard Brenton Williams ranks fourth all-time in the Gamecock record book in 3-point field goal percentage, hitting 39.5 percent of his attempts. He paced the Gamecocks last season hitting just shy of 40 percent from beyond the arc … South Carolina will play three of its first five contests of the regular season away from Columbia, with trips to No. 25 Baylor, Clemson and No. 8/12 Oklahoma State … South Carolina's non-conference schedule features 14 games, including seven home contests, plus today's exhibition. Highlighting the non-conference schedule is a holiday tournament at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in late December, and a mid-day contest at Baylor as part of the ESPN College Hoops Marathon in early November. South Carolina also travels to Oklahoma State in early December for the Big 12/SEC Challenge … South Carolina returns 52.1 percent of its scoring from last season and 47.3 percent of its 3-point field goals … South Carolina is in its 106th season of basketball.
Probable starting lineups:
Next game: USC hosts Longwood in the season opener Saturday at 1 p.m.
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