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January 21, 2014

Time, patience cure for hoops ills

If breaking up is hard to do, growing up is harder.

It happens at a snail's pace. No matter how quickly you want it, Nature has her own schedule, and she takes no heed of the the impatient demands of fans or coaches, treating each with the same blind contempt.

Growing up just takes time, and progress is measured in agony.

Besides a 14-point loss at No. 6 Florida, the Gamecocks have been in every other league game. A three-point losses at home to LSU, eight-point loss on the road at Texas A&M and excruciating one-point loss to Ole Miss have shown how close - and how far away - victory is for a team not only dealing with the vagaries of youth but also with injury now that point guard and leading scorer Ty Johnson is likely out for the season with a broken foot.

Three losses by a combined 12 points.

"It's not blowouts," freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell said. "It shows that we have a chance. We have to learn how to finish games. We have games right there, we just have to learn how to finish. We have to grow up.

After putting together a season-best four-game winning streak heading into conference play, the Gamecocks have put together a season-worst four-game losing streak and are winless in the SEC, anchoring the bottom of the standings with league doormat Auburn (the two don't play for another two weeks).

This week, the difficulty factor is increased as the Gamecocks play two road games in a row. First up is a game tomorrow at Georgia, which is 3-1 and second in the SEC standings and playing as well as anyone in the league, sporting an 8-1 home record. That's followed by a game at Columbia, Missouri, against a team that's been in and out of the Top 25 this season and boasts a 14-3 overall record, 9-1 at home.

It's a tough challenge, a tough schedule for a team desperately seeking confidence in order to make that effort in practice, those long hours in the gym, worth it and more.

You lose, it can be hard to see the point. You win, there's not enough work you can do to keep it going. Success also can brings its own challenges during games. Being young, the Gamecocks have a tendency to come out fast, then falter down the stretch.

"We were up 14-3 on A&M in the first five minutes," Martin said. "Our problem is sustaining discipline and focus."

"We gotta coach better, they gotta play better. We gotta grow up."

Like breaking up, is hard to do.



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