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November 19, 2013

Martin: Leadership lacking in losses

It almost goes without saying that a team with eight new faces, seven of whom are true freshmen, is going to lack both experience and leadership.

Almost.

For Frank Martin, who refers to sophomore Michael Carrera as a senior in practice, leadership is something this team needs to find and find quickly.

"If you were to ask me what needs to get better, our leadership needs to get better," Martin said. "I'm not sharing something with you that I haven't shared with the team. Our leadership isn't there yet and it has to improve."

Martin said that leadership was absent in a number of areas. First, it was absent in the preparation before South Carolina's 71-57 loss to Clemson on Sunday

"If you'd have pinned me down in a little room somewhere before the game started and said, 'You have to give me an answer,' I'd have said 'We're not winning,'" Martin said of his feelings prior to the game at Clemson. "Our youth kind of raised its head in our preparation for the Clemson game. And that's not to take away from (Clemson). They played their hearts out.

When the game started, our guys tried. But we didn't do a good job of preparing leading into that game. It's a long season. It happens."

Second, the leadership was absent in running the South Carolina's (1-2) offense.

"Offensively we were pathetic," Martin said. "We were bad on offense in practice. At the end of the day, 11 (minutes) and change (left) in the game, Mike (Carrera) was shooting a free throw to tie it and we have five consecutive one-pass possessions. I understand one-pass possessions when you're attacking in the open floor and you have numbers, when you're attacking off a set defense, one-pass possessions usually mean trouble. That created a jailbreak for them.

"So we got back in the game, and our poos offense led us to getting back down, 10, 11, 12 whatever it was. Our defense was on par. We're not very good on defense right now. We have guys that are tying, but we're having major breakdowns.

"Our biggest problem is guarding the basketball. We need guys to take ownership. You can practice rotations all you want, the idea is to never get put on rotation. The idea is for you to guard the basketball so the ball doesn't get in the paint. We have to get better there."

The upshot - if there is one - of team's youth is that so far it has bounced back quickly from back-to-back losses.

"We were great yesterday (in practice)," Martin said. "We always are going to take a positive approach regardless of whether we win or lose. This is not pro sports. There's a commitment to the people in the program to grow with them.

"Our approach is going to be one of a positive vibe, and that's what we ask players to do. We're going to take full advantage of this week. They were a lot better yesterday than preparing for Clemson. We're young."

Martin said while he's pleased far with his defense, for it to be superior, his offense to improve.

We're not real good defensively right now, but we're not pathetic, either," Martin said. "We're not real good to my liking to what I think our defense can be. We played good offense the first game of the year, we let our defense set and we set a Colonial Life Arena record. We went to Baylor, who is pretty good, and we played halfway decent offense and allowed our defense to set. We fouled a little too much, defensively we allowed the ball to certain areas of the floor, but still we had a chance to win and held them to 38 percent shooting.

"So our defense has not been pathetic. But for our defense to survive right now, we have to be pretty good on offense. It doesn't mean make every shot, it means run good offense, and we didn't do that against Clemson. It's hard to put four seniors in a place where they're going to be outnumbered each play against a high-conference opponent and expect them to come out on the right side of the score, let alone when you're putting a bunch of freshmen who don't understand the sense of urgency you have to have to fight for every possession.

"That's something that will come. We have good guys in that locker room. This team is fun. They take ownership, they care. Unfortunately we disappointed a lot of folks by not being undefeated this year but we'll be OK."

UP NEXT: South Carolina hosts Florida International (5-2) Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Colonial Life Arena.

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