Hoops preview: USC-Upstate

USC-Upstate (5-5) at South Carolina (2-4)
When: 4 p.m.
Where: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Series USC leads 3-0. The last meeting was a 72-66 South Carolina win on Dec. 31, 2011, in Columbia.
Frank Martin wasn't happy about anything following the Gamecocks' embarrassing 86-68 loss at the hands of Manhattan on Tuesday except that it ended.
The good news is South Carolina (2-4) doesn't have long to dwell on the loss, facing USC-Upstate this afternoon at 4 in a game that, because of the Manhattan loss, looks to be a must-win if the Gamecocks have any shot of making postseason play this year.
Martin knows his team is lacking in leadership - that much was painfully clear Tuesday when the Gamecocks had no answers for the Jaspers' physical style of play. He also knows he can't just tab someone as a leader and then expect them to go do it. Life doesn't work that way.
"I've never been one to assign responsibility to players," Martin said. "They let you know what they want to be responsible for and then I hold them accountable for what they accept. There's unbelievable discipline you have to have to be a good player.
"Here's the thing...I don't care what sport you look at. I don't care if you look at high school, college, NBA, NFL or Major League Baseball. Even the worst teams have players with good stats. That doesn't make them a good player.
"That's the whole thing that young kids have to learn. They think that because they had good stats, that makes them a good player. They have to understand how to play within team concepts. That's what makes you a good team, that's what makes you a good player. That's the challenge when you're so young, being patient enough so that through all the games and all the practices. Guys garner experience and that kind of feeds itself. Then you don't have that problem anymore."
For Martin's Gamecocks, how long they'll have that problem could depend a lot on what happens today.
Three keys to victory
MAKE FREE THROWS: You can point to a lot of things that went wrong in South Carolina's humiliating 18-point loss to Manhattan on Tuesday, but one of the more glaring sins of commission was the Gamecocks' poor free-throw shooting, especially when it counted in the first half. While Manhattan was hitting 18-of-19 (94.7 percent) from the line to build an 11-point lead it would never lose, the Gamecocks were 9-of-19 (47.4 percent). That has to improve if South Carolina's offense is going to get on track this year, because driving athleticism at the guard position is a team strength.
KEEP YOUR COMPOSURE: Against the Jaspers, the Gamecocks got hit in the mouth midway through the first half and were done fighting. It may be heresy to say that, but to my eyes the team quit against the physical, in-your-face Jaspers who essentially bullied South Carolina at will. Withstanding another team's run - and physical play - is key to success, and it should have come as no surprise with a young team so young that there would be growing pains as they learned to do this. I fully expect the Gamecocks to get better at this every game, and today's contest offers a wonderful opportunity to do just that.
TY, TAKE OVER: This team needs leadership from the point guard position, and that leadership needs to come from junior Villanova transfer Ty Johnson. To date, Johnson hasn't looked comfortable with the offense or his role in it as the one man responsible for getting people where they need to be and holding them accountable on the court when they're not. If the Gamecocks are to improve and challenge for a .500 record in the SEC, Johnson needs the light to come on, and the only way to turn a light on is to flip the switch yourself.
Probable starting lineups:
South Carolina
G - #0 Sindarius Thornwell, 6-5 206 Fr. (12.7 ppg, 3.5 rpg)
G - #4 Tyrone Johnson, 6-3 194 Jr. (12.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg)
G - #23 Bruce Ellington, 5-9, 196 Sr. (4.5 ppg, 1.0 rpg)
F - #21 Demetrius Henry, 6-9 215 Fr. (7.7 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
F - #25 Mindaugas Kacinas, 6-7 210 So. (7.5 ppg, 7.8 rpg)
G - #5 Ty Greene, 6-3 185 Jr. (14.7 ppg, 2.9 rpg)
G - #31 Mario Blessing, 6-2 165 Jr. (4.9 ppg, 2.4 rpg)
F - #12 Ricardo Glenn, 6-8 246 Sr. (11.6 ppg, 5.3 rpg)
F - #23 Torrey Craig, 6-6 215 Sr. (18.2 ppg., 7.1 rpg)
F - #24 John Maxey, 6-8 200 Sr. (8.0 ppg, 6.0 rpg)
Next game: USC faces Saint Mary's Sunday at 11 p.m.
Game notes, courtesy of Kershaw's Corner:
The Series
South Carolina leads the overall series 3-0.
* All three games were played in Columbia.
* The first meeting between the two schools came on November 22, 2008 with the Gamecocks defeating the Spartans 75-53. USC won the 2nd meeting 57-41 on November 23, 2010.
* The last time the two teams met was on December 31, 2011. USC won 72-66.
USC Upstate Coach Eddie Payne
* Graduated from Wake Forest in 1973
* Record at USC Upstate 162-181 in 12 seasons
* Career coaching record: 422-414 in 29 seasons
Scouting Upstate
* Upstate went 16-17 last season and finished 9-9 in the Atlantic Sun finishing tied for 4th.
* Upstate has 7 letterwinners returning from the 2012-13 squad and all 5 starters.
* 5-5 on the season which includes a 1-4 record on the road
* Lost 86-50 at Cincinnati on Dec. 3 and 73-63 to UNC-Asheville on Dec. 15.
Spartan Scoring Leaders
* Torrey Craig, Ty Greene and Ricardo Glenn are the top 3 scorers with all 3 averaging double figures per game.
Recapping UNC Asheville vs. USC Upstate
* Craig scored 19 and pulled down 9 boards. He was 4 of 8 on 3-point attempts.
* Green had 19 points and went 10 of 11 from the free throw line.
* Ricardo Glenn scored 11.
* Upstate shot 27.8% from 3-point range.
* UNC Asheville had 3 players in double figures and had 2 players with at least 7 rebounds.
After USC Upstate
* Gamecocks will play in the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic in Honolulu.
* Their first game is scheduled to be against Saint Mary's on December 22nd at 12 a.m. on ESPNU.
* They will play on December 23rd against either Hawaii or Boise State and will have another game on Dec. 25.