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January 25, 2014
Hoops preview: Missouri
South Carolina (7-11, 0-5) at Missouri (14-4, 2-3)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Mizzou Arena (15,061)
TV: SEC TV/ESPN3
Series Missouri leads 2-0
Last meeting: Missouri defeated USC 90-68 in Columbia, S.C. on Feb. 28, 2013.
For a team with a litter of freshman as large as anyone's in the country, life is a constant challenge.
As soon as one player straightens up, another hits a slump.
Through the non-conference schedule, freshman forward Demetrius Henry was an important contributor, tallying double figures three times, the last being the final game before league play against S.C. State when recorded a double-double with 10 points and 11 rebounds, seven of the defensive variety.
In the ensuing five league games since, Henry has combined to scored just 11 points and collect four defensive rebounds. His scoring totals for the past five games are 2, 1, 4, 3 and 1, while his defensive rebounds totals are 1, 0, 1, 0 and 2.
"I think Demetrius (Henry) - how can I word this - I think his worst enemy is himself right now," USC head coach Frank Martin said. "He's a good player for us, he will be a good player for us again. He was great with his whole demeanor and his approach, and I think he's allowed him not having the kind of success that maybe he thinks he should be having to kind of hurt his spirit a little bit.
"But he's fine. He's going to be alright. I've never coached a single freshman that doesn't go through (this).
"It just seems like every week's a different one when you have so many of them. I'd like to go through one or two and kind of look at your seniors and say, 'Let's go.' But every time I turn there's a different freshman going through that moment. That's what patience is so important."
The answer, Martin said, is fairly simple.
"We have to continue to work," Martin said. "We're right there. Self-inflicted wounds. Make one more layup. Don't pick up a technical foul because you're frustrated with yourself.
"Clean-up the hand-check fouls. We're putting people on the line too much. Our bigs have to get one defensive rebound so we have less defensive possessions that we have to play in because we won't rebound the basketball. Instead of turning it over 21 times, let's turn it over 17, which I still wouldn't be happy with but I'd be willing to tolerate.
"That's what we're talking to our team about. I think our team is finding its identity and we're moving forward."
Three keys to victory
PLAY THROUGH MISTAKES: One of the things Martin talks about is not letting mistakes affect you on ensuing possessions, something that has become a bit of an epidemic as one freshman after another goes through periods of ineffectiveness. Like a shooter that believes his next shot will fall, USC's freshmen need to play with no short-term memory and leave everything they have on the floor.
ELIMINATE LAZY FOULS: Georgia shot a season-high 50 free throws against the Gamecocks. Time and again, the Bulldogs would beat their man off the dribble, drive and get fouled. Couple that tendency with the fact that UGA was shooting the lights out in the first half and you have the recipe for a 21-point blowout in which the Gamecocks took a 2-0 lead and never threatened again. With effort and focus on the ball, USC at least can make a team work through its set defense rather than giving away points again and again and again.
TRUST THE GAME PLAN: Martin's assistant coaches put a great deal of work into their game plans for opponents. Martin has said in the past that the biggest difference between seniors and freshmen is that seniors understand the value of the scouting report. Martin's Gamecocks need to trust that scout, trust that information and put all their effort and energy into carrying that out, controlling who it says to control and trusting that it's always going to put them in a position to succeed.
Probable starting lineups:
G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5, 206 Fr. (12.8 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
G - #5 Jordan Clarkson, 6-5, 193 R-Jr. (18.7 ppg, 3.9 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina travels to Missouri on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
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