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January 14, 2014

Martin: Losing an epidemic

Frank Martin is no doctor, but he can diagnose a disease as well as anyone.

The disease? Losing.

The cure? Winning.

"Losing is an epidemic," Martin said. "Losing is negative.

"You don't want to compile losses because then it deflates your enthusiasm and your energy. You can try to ignore the fact that you lose a game as long as it's not something that occurs very often, But you end up with some L's in a row, that's going to impact kids, especially young kids."

For now, South Carolina (7-8, 0-2) is sick in that it's winless in it's first two SEC games. The cure is known, but challenging games on the road at a Texas A&M team atop the SEC standings and at home against the only SEC team to make the NCAAs last year doesn't look much like a prescription for health.

Still, like any patient fighting an illness, the first step to recovery is the desire to heal and a good support system.

"Our fight is good right now," Martin said. "Focus in on what's important, and outside of your family, it's whatever goes on in this locker room. That's the only thing that's important right now, because no one outside this locker room is going to help you win a game.

"No one understands what we're going through other than the people in this locker room. Keep your ears open to the other people in the locker room, keep your ears open to your coaches, your teammates, your managers, the trainers, the people who are the ones going through it with you. Our guys have been good about that right now."

After losing six of their first nine games, the Gamecocks were on their heels. A confidence-building trip to Hawaii, however, provided a spark and USC won five of its next six before starting conference play.

"We went through a little stretch of non-conference play where we got our tails kicked one day and didn't play well another game and lost a couple tough games you maybe could argue we shouldn't be losing," Martin said. "But it's the path that's been chosen for us and we dealt with it and we had the resolve to stay in the moment and stay focused in on what's important, our team, and then we ran some wins. We went on a little winning streak and felt good about ourselves.

"I can tell you what I'm not going to allow our guys to do and that's feel bad about what's happened the first two (SEC) games."

Martin said based on what he's seen, he's not concerned about the health of his team, though he does acknowledge the close loss to LSU was a setback to his program as a whole.

"When I came in here after the LSU game I said I was disappointed," Martin said. "I wasn't disappointed in our team, I was disappointed that we let an opportunity get away to improve our program, which is two completely different things.

"I'm always coaching my team and I'm trying to build our program, and that's two different things. Don't confuse one with the other. I have not been disappointed in my guys. My guys have been great. They're fighting for us, they're trying to do things a certain way, they're learning while you're asking them to do certain things. We lost at Florida, but we fought. Last year we went into Florida, we had no fight. This year we fought, we just didn't get it done. We'll get better. When you have a fight in your gut, you'll figure out a way to overcome one day.

"We played an LSU team that's real good. They're not just OK, they're NCAA-good. If they're not an NCAA team then I should never coach another NCAA game in my life. That's how certain I am they're an NCAA team. We didn't get it done, but we went nose-to-nose with them and we need to learn how to eliminate some of the mistakes that prevented us from winning. My disappointment was in our program. It's the first time since I've been here that I felt our fans were engaged in a game, that I felt our fans were in the stands helping our players win, that I felt I had a team that was good enough to go beat a quality team and that they were fighting to do that. I wanted us to win that game for our program."

As for his team...he has no worries about it's health - or fight - at all.

"Never once have I been disappointed in my team," Martin said. "Not this year at least. Those kids are fighting, and that's all I can ask for."



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