When South Carolina (2-3) tips-off against Manhattan tomorrow night at 7 at the Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks will have played one game in 22 days.
Head coach Frank Martin knows that to improve, his teams need games,
"We need to play games so guys can then judge where we're at with where we need to be," Martin said. "That's the challenge. In practice, you don't really understand where you need to be unless you have games to reflect on."
Martin said one benefit of games is that they're actually a release from the intensity of practice - or at least they should be.
"The way that we will eventually get our program is games will become easy because practices are so fast and so competitive," Martin said.
"That's the way we've always done it. Games are kind of fun because it's a relief because practices are so hard. It's the way I've always tried to do business, but we're not there yet. We'll probably be a little sluggish.
"I just know we need to play."
The last time out, the Gamecocks fell on the road to then-No. 9 Oklahoma State 79-52 in a game that was over quickly.
"We don't dwell on (the loss)," Martin said. "Use it as a learning tool. We spoke about that game after the game, we spoke about it the next day but that's it. If we would have won by 25, that's exactly what I would have done. I wouldn't have said a word about that game once we separated from that moment. It's something that you play, you learn from.
"We're young, we went into that building, the building is hard. I knew it going in, my guys didn't. We got rattled early against a senior-laden team, the one guy who isn't a senior is the best player in the country and they jumped us.
"What happens with young teams is that instead of trying to stay the course for 40 minutes, we had guys that either hung their heads or tried to break off and do it on their own, and a 15-point game became a 25-point game. That's not how you get back into a game, and hopefully we learned that."
Martin hopes his players will use the experience in a positive way going forward.
"Everyone wants game experience, but when you don't know what you're doing, game experience becomes a negative experience because you get exposed when you play good teams," Martin said. "So we practice wise, we cleaned up a lot of stuff, we're better about a lot of things than we were eight weeks ago, but it's time to play games."
After tomorrow, the Gamecocks will play again Thursday against USC-Upstate before boarding a plane Friday for three games in four days at the Hawaiian Airlines Diamond Head Classic Dec. 22-25.
"I'm just hoping I'm alive January the third with all the games we have coming up," Martin said. "It's great."
"Quick turns don't make worry me because at the end of the year, that toughens you up. You have to be prepared for that.
"We've put in our share of practice time, now it's time to go play games."