AUBURN, Ala. - With three regular-season games remaining on South Carolina and losses taking their toll, South Carolina coach Frank Martin was asked what the Gamecocks have left to play for following a lackluster 83-67 loss to Auburn, the team's fifth in its last seven games and 11th straight on an opponent's home court this year.
"For our program," Martin said. "We're trying to build a program. We're not in a place where we're competing for any kind of championship right now, we're trying to build a program. You put that uniform on your approach has to b the right way.
"One of our other coaches said during a timeout, 'In your life, you get evaluated every single day. The days you choose not to do what you're supposed to could be the day that decisions are made from an evaluation standpoint.' We have three games, we have three weeks of basketball left. We have to make sure we get prepared well. We've done a pretty good job of that all year. Unfortunately, coming down the stretch we haven't played with that same oomph that we played with for a while."
NOTICE BENCHED: If you thought Martin was hard on Carrera and Williams after the game, he saved his toughest words for Duane Notice. Notice, who had started 20 consecutive games, did not start Wednesday night in Auburn.
When asked why, Martin did not mince words.
"He hasn't been any good for a while," Martin said. "He just hasn't practiced well, he hasn't played well, his focus hasn't been good.
"I've never in my career ever had to change a lineup this deep in the year. Unfortunately because of our youth and inconsistencies I had to do that. He has to reconnect with what we're doing. He's been disconnected. He has not practiced or played well since the Vanderbilt game (Feb. 12)."
Against the Tigers, Notice scored eight points with four rebounds, five assists and two turnovers.
NO RESPECT: Count Auburn's Chris Denson as among those not impressed with South Carolina's offense this season. Having scored 47 points in two games against the Gamecocks, Denson said defending USC was easy.
"They weren't very good shooters besides (Brent) Williams, so we just stood back," Denson said.
CARRERA SURGING: Whole other players didn't give the kind of defensive performance Martin demands, Michael Carrera couldn't be accused of laying down. The sophomore snagged a season-high 13 rebounds, including a season-high eight on the defensive end. Before he fouled out with 2:27 left, he'd earned the respect of his competitors.
"They are a tough team to rebound against because of how they play down near the basket," Auburn coach Tony Barbee said. "I thought we did a good job of handling everybody else, but he plays hard down there and you have to give him credit for that."
FOUL FEST: Fifty-three fouls were called Wednesday night, including two technicals (both on Auburn), 30 of which were called on USC. It was the seventh time this season the Gamecocks have played in a game with 50 or more fouls called, with the season-high coming at Georgia (59 total fouls, 33 called on the Gamecocks). The other gamed featuring 50-plus fouls were Manhattan (53), Marshall (58), LSU (52), at Texas A&M (51), and Ole Miss (56).
Auburn opened the second half with nine straight fouls called on them before the whistle went the other way, which sparked a chorus of cheers from the sparse crowd when Sindarius Thornwell was called for USC's first second-half foul with 14:40 left.
"(The foul situation was) adversity that's going to hit every game," Auburn's Allen Payne said. "We were down 8-0 in fouls in the first five minutes (of the second half). That was just adversity we had to fight through. Me and Chris Denson led the charge in the huddle. We had to keep fighting through and keep battling because they weren't going to give us any calls."
Even the fans weren't safe. In the second half official Ted Valentine ejected an adult male fan sitting courtside after he was complaining about fouls not being called. He left quickly with a smile on his face and without incident.
SIN TIRED: Frank Martin shrugged-off the idea that Thornwell's play has been suffered of late by the amount of minutes he's played, but Brent Williams wasn't so sure.
"I think (tiring out) could be a factor," Williams said. "The minutes he is playing are starting to catch up to him. But he will definitely get it together."