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December 25, 2013

Hoops preview: Akron

Akron (6-3) v. South Carolina (3-6)
When: 6:30 p.m.
Where: Stan Sheriff Center (10,300)
TV: ESPN2 Series First meeting.

One step forward, two steps back.

With a freshman-dominated team, progress is often measured in such frustrating proportions, and Monday proved no different as the Gamecocks turned the glow of a signature win over NCAA Tournament contender Saint Mary's into a 26-point rout by Boise State that left little doubt as to how far USC has to go to get where coach Frank Martin wants to be0.

The Gamecocks will get the chance to leave their Hawaiian Christmas vacation on a positive note tonight against an Akron team that got walloped by tournament favorite Iowa State 83-60.

In a weird scheduling quirk, tonight's game will be the first of two straight against the Zips, who already were on the regular-season schedule for a Dec. 28 date at the Colonial Life Arena at 4 p.m.

Three keys to victory

BENCH POINTS: South Carolina's bench combined for 26 of the Gamecocks' 54 points, or 48 percent. That's good in the sense that the bench could come up big, but also bad in the sense that the starters produced so little. The positive to take is that two players South Carolina knew it would have to depend on if it wanted to make significant progress this season - Brent Williams and Michael Carrera - played well, scoring 14 and 8 points, respectively. If Williams can find his shooting touch and Carrera can find his way out of the coaches' doghouse, the upside for this team this year skyrockets.

FEAR THE THORN: Through nine games, freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell leads the team in scoring with a 12.1 points per game average. Against Saint Mary's he had 13, and the game before against USC Upstate poured in 19 points. Against Boise State, however, Thornwell was frustrated to the tune of just one point in 18 minutes. For this team to emerge offensively as a threat against whomever they face, Thornwell has to be a player whose offensive game other teams fear enough to scheme for. As the best offensive player, Thornwell will be the focus of opposing defensive efforts, so learning how to play through that attention will be key to his growth and the team's success.

CONSISTENCY: Just like Thornwell had a down game, so did fellow guard Ty Johnson, who scored only five points after scoring a team-high 16 in the win over the Gaels of Saint Mary's. For two players to contribute 29 points one game and six the next is the kind of thing that makes Frank Martin age in dog years, as he likes to say. Both Thornwell and Johnson need to develop a consistency of effort and performance that the other young players are looking to them to do. Both of them set the tone and pace for the team, and when they're both down, it's hard for others not to follow their lead.

Probable starting lineups:

South Carolina G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5 206 Fr. (12.1 ppg, 3.8 rpg)
G - #4 Tyrone Johnson, 6-3 194 Jr. (11.7 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
G - #10 Duane Notice, 6-2, 221 Fr. (4.8 ppg, 1.9 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9 215 Fr. (6.9 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7 210 So. (6.2 ppg, 6.7 rpg)

Akron G - #3 Nyles Evans, 5-11 170 Jr. (8.0 ppg, 1.8 rpg)
G - #4 Deji Ibitayo, 6-4 205 Jr. (4.7 ppg, 2.0 rpg)
F - #1 Demetrius Treadwell, 6-7 235 Sr. (15.1 ppg, 8.7 rpg)
F - #21 Reggie McAdams, 6-7 210 So. (7.0 ppg., 2.1 rpg)
C - #34 Pat Forsythe, 6-11 235 So. (5.1 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Next game: South Carolina will face Akron on Saturday at he Colonial Life Arena at 4 p.m.



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