Brenton Williams had by far the best night of any Gamecock in South Carolina's 79-74 loss to Auburn, but head coach Frank Martin still wants more from the senior guard.
The Kissimmee, Fla., native scorched the Tigers for 29 points on 10-14 shooting, including a 6-10 performance from beyond the arc. He repeatedly dragged the Gamecocks back into a game they seemed to want no part of, confounding Auburn defenders with an array of 3-point shots and athletic maneuvers at the basket while his teammates shot 36 percent from the floor.
But Williams could have done more, Martin said, if he had been more aggressive and embraced his role as a scorer.
"If he would have scored 34 today, we win, but he scored 29," Martin said. "And you could say that's really nitpicky, but he passed up a lot of shots and a lot of opportunities to attack the zone that he didn't do when it was a 2- or 4-point game."
Auburn took a 60-44 lead with 13 minutes left in the game, but Williams fired back with 10 straight points for South Carolina, sparking an 18-2 run that brought the game back to a tie. Martin marveled at Williams' ability to will the Gamecocks back into the game, but wondered why the only senior on the roster doesn't play with that aggression all the time.
"Like I told Brent Williams, why does he wait until we're down 15 to decide to drive and take shots?" Martin said. "Why doesn't he do that when the game's tied? He's got to embrace that role. He can't wait until we're down 15 to become aggressive offensively."
Martin said that Williams can't continue to be passive if South Carolina is to start winning some of the close games it has dropped recently.
"I just think you've got to be comfortable in who you can be," Martin said. "At Missouri he did the same thing. Now we're down whatever it was, 22-4 to start the game, and he started letting it go and attacking, and now we're all the way back in the game and he starts passing up shots again.
"It's hard, but it's not like he's not scoring. He just had 29. He's putting the ball in the basket. He just needs to be programmed that he can do that whether it's a two-point game, a 10-point game or a tie game, he can't pass up opportunities to be aggressive. For us to figure out a way to move forward as a team, he's got to embrace that. Not worry about the score, he's got to embrace that."
COSTLY FREE THROW SHOOTING. South Carolina shot an abysmal 59.1 percent from the line, making just 13 of its 22 attempts in a game decided by five points. By contrast, Auburn made 16 of its 20 attempts.
"You can't shoot 59 percent from the line and win an SEC game," Martin said, specifically referencing Duane Notice's 3-7 night from the stripe.
"It is what it is," Martin said. "We still battled, and if we would have made free throws, we probably would have won."
THORNWELL BREAKS THE RECORD. Sindarius Thornwell had a dreadful night shooting, but made up for it with his ability to get the ball to open teammates. The freshman guard dished nine assists, the most by any South Carolina guard in a single game this season, to go along with eight points on 3-16 shooting and three rebounds. Before Wednesday, the record was shared by Ty Johnson, who had eight assists against Baylor, and Duane Notice, who had eight against S.C. State.
ALMOST NOTHING. Six Gamecocks saw minutes off the bench, but only Mindaugas Kacinas made any notable positive impact on the game. Kacinas battled his way to a 14-point, six-rebound night under the basket in 31 minutes of play, but South Carolina got almost no production whatsoever out of its other five bench players. Jaylen Shaw, Laimonas Chatkevicius, Justin McKie, Desmond Ringer and Brian Steele combined for zero points, one rebound, one assist and two turnovers in 16 minutes of play.
Martin lamented the lack of defensive help his guards got from his frontcourt against Auburn's dynamic guard duo, but he could just have easily have been talking about his team's lack of life off the bench.
LET IT RAIN. South Carolina entered the game tops in the SEC in three-point shooting, making 37.7 percent of its shots from long range. The Gamecocks continued that trend Wednesday, shooting 41.2 percent (7-17) from beyond the arc.
UP NEXT. South Carolina travels to Tennessee Saturday to take on the Volunteers at 3 p.m. on ESPNU. Martin likened Tennessee guards Josh Richardson and Jordan McRae to Auburn guards KT Harrell and Chris Denson, who combined for 50 points against the Gamecocks. But those two aren't even the duo that worry Martin the most.
"They've got two behemoths inside that, I'm scared they might eat one of my freshmen," Martin said. "We've got our hands full, but you know what? What are we going to do, go home and cry? Pout? We ain't gonna do that."
Team SEC, Overall
Florida 9-0, 20-2
Kentucky 7-2, 17-5
Ole Miss 6-3, 15-7
LSU 5-3, 14-6
Tennessee 5-4, 14-8
Vanderbilt 5-4, 13-8
Georgia 4-4, 10-10
Missouri 4-5, 16-6
Mississippi State 3-5, 13-8
Texas A&M 3-5, 12-9
Arkansas 3-6, 14-8
Auburn 3-6, 11-9
Alabama 3-6, 9-13
South Carolina 1-8, 8-14
Auburn 79, South Carolina 74
Arkansas 65, Alabama 58
Vanderbilt 64, Tennessee 60
Mississippi State at Texas A&M, 9 p.m.
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