Four big bodies, four little rebounds.
Getting their first start of the season, forwards Laimonas Chatkevicius (6-foot-11) and Desmond Ringer (6-9) combined for just two defensive rebounds Saturday against Ole Miss. Freshman forward Demetrius Henry (6-9), who had started every game before that and saw significant action, had zero in 16 minutes of play, while the team's leading rebounder, forward Mindaugas Kacinas (6-7), had two.
Four bigs, four boards, one frustrated coach.
"I don't understand how you don't get a rebound," Frank Martin said following the Ole Miss game Saturday. "I really don't. I really don't comprehend that.
"We've got four bigs that combined for (four) defensive rebounds. I don't understand how that can happen. Guards have led us in rebounding for three straight games. I don't know what to say there."
On Tuesday, Martin's perspective hadn't budged. When asked if had any indication his defensive rebounding was about to disappear in league play, Martin was direct.
"No, no," Martin said. "That's why I'm so disappointed in that right now. We were actually rebounding the ball real well through December. I don't know what's happened, but it's got to get fixed. I'm not into blaming, I don't do that, but we all have to take accountability in what we do. I have to do a better job coaching, and the players have to do a better job of performing in that aspect of the game.
If we don't clean that up, it's going to be a struggle for us consistently throughout league play. You've got no chance to win in conference play if you can't get a defensive rebound."
Through four league games South Carolina is dead last in defensive rebounding, averaging just 22.4 per game. Martin said the only way to correct the behavior is through education.
"We're big on film," Martin said. "We show a lot of film. We show opponent's film for preparation. When teams have guys that get on that offensive glass real hard, we show numerous plays where certain players attack that glass to show our guys, if you stand around, you're in trouble. And then we also show our mistakes. We show positive and we show negative."
Besides rebounding, turnovers have been a big reason the Gamecocks have lost three conference games by a total of 12 points. In four SEC games South Carolina is averaging 19.5 turnovers, hitting the 21 mark twice against Florida and against Ole Miss. Martin said on Monday he made a special example in film study of the high cost of careless turnovers.
"Yesterday, I showed our team our 21 turnovers," Martin said. "That's all I showed. And after I showed them, we obviously teach clip-by-clip, after I showed them I said, 'How many of those turnovers were aggressive and how many were bad, self-inflicted lazy turnovers that led to easy baskets?' I said all we had to do in that game was have 20 instead of 21 and we figure out a way to win.
"That's how close (we are). We're real close to being 3-1. But that and 30 cents used to get me a cup of coffee. Not anymore.
"We're real close to being 3-1. That's the reality. No matter whether we all want to embrace it or not, it's a reality, and we as coaches get excited because we know we're so close, I would hope that our players would be just as excited. I think they are. They practice hard. They're trying to play hard, but we're making some mistakes that are just self-inflicted that we have to figure out a way, You can't eliminate them all, but you have to eliminate a certain bunch of those that's preventing us from finding wins."
Martin said he doesn't allow disappointment to linger in a locker room, beginning with his own.
"If I come in with a gloom and doom, then I can't expect an 18-year-old to be excited about what they're doing," Martin said. "I don't like losing. I don't make any secrets about that. But I don't dwell on it, either, I go home, I get around my kids, they perk me up, I wake up the next day and I realize that we're in a place where if we can continue to fix and build we can win, and I get excited about that. So I want to do my job, and I echo that to the players.
"It's not all lovey-dovey all the time, but it's all optimistic because it's there for us to do if we can correct it, our problems, our mistakes, our maturity. If we were doing a majority of things right and not making these mistakes and we were still falling short, then it would be a struggle. Because then either I'm not doing a very good job or our players aren't good enough. That's a difficult place to be in, but that's not the feel whatsoever right now. The feel is that what we have in place is going to work. The most important thing for me right now is the word 'patience.' I have to have patience, and I don't have a lot of it. But when it comes to education, I always figure out a way to have patience because we're dealing with young people.
"For us to get where we want to be, patience is a key word. But I'm optimistic. I'm extremely optimistic. I think our players are, too. And there's no question we're a much better team now than we were in November. There's no question in my mind about that, but we're still falling short, so we have to clean that up."