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January 13, 2014

MBB: SEC teleconference recap

On Saturday in the moments following South Carolina's 71-68 loss to LSU, Frank Martin said he wouldn't be optimistic about his team until Monday.

On Monday, Martin was asked if, indeed, he was.

"I am," Martin said. "We played a real good LSU team. You look at what that team has accomplished up to this point, they lost at UMass, a top-20 team, at the buzzer. They lost to Memphis, a top-20 team, in an absolute dogfight. They got beat at home by Tennessee, who is a top-20 team in the country. And unfortunately they lost a tough game to Rhode Island, which happens to everybody. So we went nose to nose with a real, real good basketball team.

"We just didn't do enough to win."

This week, Martin takes his Gamecocks (7-8,0-2) to Texas A&M (11-4, 2-0) on Wednesday to play an Aggies team that's unbeaten in SEC play with wins over Arkansas and on the road against Tennessee before hosting Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon.

"Another great week in the SEC," Martin said. "Texas A&M, (coach) Billy Kennedy is continuing to build that program and they're off to a great start, two great wins out of the chute. Ole Miss is the defending NCAA Tournament representative for our league and the conference tournament winner and will have Marshall Henderson back after missing him for a few games.

"Just another easy week in the SEC."

Martin said the Aggies are a well-rounded team benefiting from being in the third year of Kennedy's system.

"They have a couple transfers in there (Faybon Harris of Southern Idaho, and Antwan Space of FSU) who have given them great play and athleticism at the three and four spots," Martin said. "I think (sophomore guard Alex) Caruso has really grown in Billy's system. He's connected with what BK wants.

"Tavario Miller, like all first year guys in the league they have their ups and downs. I think you're seeing a much more consistent player to his talent with an understanding of SEC basketball. And then you have your one mainstay, your rock, in (junior forward Kourtney) Roberson who gives you unbelievable toughness and energy at the rim. It appears to be a well-balanced team."

After that the Gamecocks face perhaps the league's most dynamic player - Ole Miss guard Marshall Henderson, who returns the Rebels' lineup having been suspended for the first two SEC games due to on- and off-court issues dating back to last year.

"He's an unbelievable player," Martin said of Henderson. "He's 19 points a game (18.8). If you're half a step late, half a second late, it's a three in the basket.

"He's an unbelievable competitor. I don't think anyone gives him the credit he deserves for being the competitor that he is. He makes the players around him better because of his competitiveness. I have a lot of respect for what Marshall Henderson does as a player."

In other team news, freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell was named the SEC Freshman of the Week on the heels of his 25-point performance against LSU on Saturday and a 10-point outing in Gainesville last Wednesday. It was the first such honor for Thornwell.

From the SEC: Thornwell shot 66.7 percent (12-18) from the field in posting 10 points at Florida, and a season high 25 points against LSU on Saturday. He was a perfect 2-of-2 from 3-point range against Florida while collecting three steals to match his season high. Against LSU, Thornwell scored a season best 25 points, including 13 points on 5-of-9 shooting in the first half.

PREMIUM: Hoops connection with the latest on women's hoops target A'ja Wilson, more on a 7-foot center Frank Martin is after and other insider notes

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Recent Insider Report: Breaking down USC's chances with five-star Prince, 2016 DT Antwuan Jackson, the latest on Derrell Scott and more

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