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February 13, 2014
Hoops preview: Vanderbilt
Vanderbilt (13-9, 5-5) at South Carolina (8-15, 1-9)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
TV: None, though the game will stream online for free at GamecocksOnline.com.
Series: Vanderbilt leads 28-24
Last meeting: Vanderbilt defeated USC 74-64 in Nashville on March 19, 2013.
For South Carolina head basketball coach Frank Martin, "Patience" isn't a Guns 'N Roses power ballad or a popular female name from the 19th century.
It's a way of life coaching a team with seven freshmen, and patience indeed is a virtue, then Martin should be getting a call from the Vatican any day now.
"I always talk about patience, and I'm learning it first-hand this year," Martin said. "I'll tell you what this year has done. I reflect back, because I coach freshman real hard. I've always been hard on freshmen because I want to see what they're about and they need to see the sense of urgency and learn how to work so they can help their upperclassmen who are down to x-number of games in their careers.
"This year has made me appreciate the freshmen I had in the past that I wanted them to do more, but I always had upperclassmen I could depend on. Now reflecting back, makes me understand how lucky I was that we had freshmen willing to give so much rather than think about how much more I Wanted them to do. It's allowed me to stay more patient with this group."
Still, don't get Martin wrong. Like the character Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka - and most every SEC fan there is, come to think of it - Martin wants success, and he wants it NOW.
"Everyone wants to talk about patience, (but) we live in a society where no one has patience for anything," Martin said. "I'm including myself in that group. I want things fixed now, not in six months."
But patience is demanded from Martin on a daily basis with a team featuring eight forwards for whom getting defensive rebounds at times looks like mission impossible.
Freshman Demetrius Henry has eight defensive rebounds through 10 SEC games. In fewer minutes, fellow freshman Desmond Ringer has 12. The player most expected to excel in that category this year based on last year's results - sophomore Michael Carrera - was a non-factor against Tennessee, playing a career-low five minutes, and appears buried so far in Martin's doghouse he may not see daylight til March. The Lithuanians, well, let's just say leaving their feet isn't their strong suit.
"We're below the rim the whole game," Martin said, only half-joking, when asked about his bigs in SEC play. "They're trying, you know, some guys need to do more. Some guys have to do more than what they've done. Some guys are trying as hard as they can. It's something that we have to continue to push and prod and pull to get them to give us more.
"Some guys have to figure out a way to focus in and be more willing to giv more. It's a two-way street. Us as coaches have to do a better job of helping them and them as players have to take more ownership of what they do and learn how to give more.
"So the front line guys are trying. We need them to give more. We have to help them give more. At the same time, they've got to want to give more. But we have to be patient to let that happen. We all evolve different."
Three keys to victory
HAVE A HEART: In the Gamecocks' lone SEC win of the year over Texas A&M, USC came out with passion and intensity and never let their foot off the gas in a satisfying rout. They haven't done it since. Maybe it was the cold weather, maybe it was frustration, but whatever it was, it needs to reappear and USC needs to play like its hair is on fire, with heart and a will to win that ignores all setbacks.
FIND A BIG, GET HIM HOT: With the disappointing lack of production from a number of big men both offensively and defensively, Martin can't just write off the forwards as unable to contribute to the offensive game plan, so its imperative for someone to emerge and get hot whether they like it or not. Whether that's Laimonas Chatkevicius, Michael Carrera, Demetrius Henry or Brian Steele, someone needs to take ownership of that role and claim it as their own.
SUFFOCATE: You don't have to be a great scorer to play college basketball. If you can defend with the ferocity of a mama bear defending her cubs or a wolverine defending a kill, someone will find a spot on a court somewhere for you. The Gamecocks need one, if not two or three, guys who adopt that mindset and bring it to the court with intensity and physicality, making anyone who dares try to penetrate its set defense pay with their very lives (or at least their bodies). This team has looked too confused along the way this year - normal with first-and second-year players - to get that evil gleam in its eye when defending its basket. It's high time that mindset emerged, and with a vengeance.
Probable starting lineups:
Next game: South Carolina hosts Alabama Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.
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