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December 22, 2013

MBB: Saint Mary's preview

Saint Mary's (9-0) v. South Carolina (2-5)
When: 11 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)
TV: ESPNU Series First meeting.

For a man coming off a third-straight loss, Frank Martin was positively chipper Thursday night after watching his team blow a 17-point lead in a 75-68 loss to USC Upstate.

"We have to stay the course, we have to keep the faith, we have to believe in what we're doing," Martin said. "When you do right and you're willing to embrace responsibility, at he end things work out.

I didn't think we played poorly in the second half (against Upstate)," Martin said. "But our inability to make certain shots, it impacted us emotionally and discipline-wise on the defensive side. That can't happen. You can't hang your head because you miss a shot. It can't happen. But we did, and that's unfortunately what we go through. That's a challenge to continue to make progress."

Tonight in Honolulu at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic, the Gamecocks face a Saint Mary's team that hasn't lost a game this season. The Gaels (9-0) of the West Coast Conference are led by veteran coach Randy Bennett, who is in his 13th season at the Moraga, Calif., school. Saint Mary's already has quality victories against Akron and Boise State and are led by junior forward Brad Waldow (17.6 ppg), Stephen Holt (13.3 ppg), James Walker III (11.3 ppg) and Beau Levesque (11.0).

The Gamecocks haven't won a neutral-site game since defeating Manhattan a year ago today (Dec. 22, 2012). Right now, Martin will take a win anywhere he can get it because it would mean his players are understanding the work it takes to win at this level.

"Kids in today's society are taught that winning is easy," Martin said. "It's not. Winning is hard."

"You don't understand that until you actually have to line up as a freshman and embrace the responsibility of winning. If you go go to a program that's won 27 every year and you're a freshman, you're mad because you don't play. But the guys who are embracing the responsibility of winning are those guys that are fifth-year seniors.

"Our freshman are starting to understand that first-hand. They expectation is why isn't this working? Well, it's not working because you have to learn how to work. They'll be fine. We have a good group of guys in that locker room."

Three keys to victory

REBOUND, PT. 1: South Carolina must rebound emotionally from two difficult losses this week. One was a humiliating beat-down by a physically intimidating Manhattan team, the other a humiliating loss to a team with inferior talent in which it blew a 17-point lead. Learning how to handle setbacks and adversity is the key to development, and how soon and how well these young Gamecocks begin to learn it will decide whether this team improves significantly or not this season.

Rebound, PT. 2: Rebound the basketball. The Gamecocks should have a slight size advantage over the Gaels, so now is the time to use it. In the two losses this week, the Gamecocks failed to out-rebound either team, and the resulting lack of possessions was costly, especially against Upstate.

BIGS PLAY BIGGER: South Carolina's inside game all but disappeared last week. Against Manhattan, Midaugas Kacinas and Demetrius Henry had 7 and 4 points, respectively, then against Upstate had 5 and 4 points, respectively. Meanwhile, they were getting dominated inside, first by Manhattan's George Beamon (26 points, 5 rebounds) then by Upstate's Ricardo Glenn (22 points, 14 boards). If this team is going to do anything but get pushed around inside, it needs to man-up inside. Both of Saint Mary's big men average double figures in scoring, led by the 6-foot-9, 260-pound Brad Waldow (17.6 ppg.).

Probable starting lineups:

South Carolina G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5 206 Fr. (12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
G - #4 Tyrone Johnson, 6-3 194 Jr. (12.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G - #10 Duane Notice, 6-2, 221 Fr. (2.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9 215 Fr. (7.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7 210 So. (7.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg)

Saint Mary's G - #14 Stephen Holt, 6-4 195 Sr. (13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg)
G - #35 James Walker III, 6-3 185 Sr. (11.3 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
G - #12 Jordan Giusti, 6-2 185 So. (4.1 ppg, 2.7 rpg)
F - #00 Brad Waldow, 6-9 260 Jr. (17.6 ppg., 7.3 rpg)
F - #15 Beau Levesque, 6-7 220 Sr. (11.0 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

Next game: Depending on results, South Carolina will face either host Hawaii (7-2) or Boise State (8-2) tomorrow



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