The Frank Martin era at South Carolina begins with a close call and win over Kentucky Wesleyan 68-67. The victory was accomplished by a late 3 second layup by Junior Shooting Guard Brenton Williams, who finished the night with a game high 22 points in 38 minutes. The game was a sloppy poor shooting contest for the host Gamecocks, who shot their way into an early first half 11-point deficit, but were able to grind to a late surge to post a 37-31 halftime lead. In the second half the visitors came out shooting and secured a second half lead that led to 10 lead changes and an eventual "nail biter" for the favored hometown team. The good news for the evening, the Gamecocks won a basketball game wherein they were outplayed in every significant basketball statistical category but final score. Wesleyan out shot the Cocks 48%-38% from the field, 77%-71% from the free throw line, 22%-20% from beyond the arch, while out rebounding the Gamecocks 35-31, bench scoring 10-1, points in the paint 16-14 and fast break points 6-4 went to the underdog visiting team. It appears if not for the excessive foul call differences 28-17, favoring South Carolina, leading to 27-38 shooting at the line versus the 13-17 for Wesleyan, Coach Martin may have found the normal opening season "dress rehearsal" a little too dramatic. When you consider the debut of such a promising and anticipating transition of leadership, along with the most heralded basketball coaching change in modern day school history. Fan expectation can be a well over emphasized characteristic of a program, as it is often nurtured with a tremendous lack of knowledge of the ingredients to building an athletic program at major institutions. So it is easily understood, when you hear disappointing comments, negative projections and down right defeatist attitudes. But with the performance of half a team on opening night under new leadership, in a new system with just under 3 weeks of practice, no one should be anything but happy for a win and no injuries.
Exhibition games are analogical to Broadway dress rehearsals. The reason you provide the low cost to free exhibits of your high cost talent is to assure that the product has every opportunity to work out the kinks, mistakes, misreads, sound checks, miss assignments, missed lines, missed rotations, missed cues, you get my point.
Coach Martin orchestrated runs, generated stops, maintained team composure and manufactured a win out of losing transitions, possessions, reactions and individual performances. USC's new basketball coach played only seven players off a 15 player roster, which includes a starting point guard currently starting at wide receiver for the BCS 8th ranked football team, and obviously made playing decisions based on injuries to at least four contributing players. With one "Dress Rehearsal" remaining I believe the critics should wait for the real opening act before placing reviews on the performance of the Gamecocks' Men's Basketball Program. Other reason to wait on the finished product could also be found in the the coach's 117-54 record in five seasons as a Div I coach and 50-32 in conference play. The 23.4 wins per season average, along with a 10 win conference average, should have all Gamecock nation patient and waiting for the season's official "Opening Act", but much better yet, the eventual results upon "Curtain Call", as the season draws to an end. Just sit back and enjoy the ride this season with Coach Martin and his basketball staff. Download Basketball Schedule