A&M wins by 18, Martin shows only he and Bruce have job security

So, that was interesting.

On Saturday night, freshman Brian Steele got his first start of his career in place of senior Lakeem Jackson, and quintupled his playing time on the season (going from 5 minutes to 30 minutes).  Shane Phillips more than doubled his total playing time this season, as he saw 13 minutes of playing time.  At the end, fellow walk-on Austin Constable got a minute of playing time.

And the Gamecocks, after going into halftime tied, couldn’t adjust to the zone that A&M presented them in the second half, but more importantly, couldn’t stop them defensively to save their collective lives in the final 10 minutes, and ultimately fell by a final score of 74-56.

This was, suffice to say, an incredibly weird game – 11 Gamecocks saw time on the floor, and they did not include either Brian Richardson or Laimonas Chatkevicius.  Chatkevicius had started the last four games and averaged 23.5 minutes over those outings, so it makes sense that Martin thought he needed a rest (he also played his best offensive game of the season thus far against Missouri).  Richardson got his first DNP of the season after eight straight games of playing 15 or more minutes and coming off back-to-back excellent offensive performances against Georgia and Missouri.

And yet, the Gamecocks went into the half tied and were only down four going into the final 10 minutes, before A&M reeled off 34 points in the last quarter of the game to seal the victory.  While the focus will be on the shift to the zone (and somewhat fairly – the increase in turnovers gave A&M a lot of their buckets), the Gamecocks woes once again shifted back to the defensive end, a frustrating reversal given that one of the positives that seemed to be coming out of this season was that our defense steadily improved throughout the year (though mostly at the expense of our offense).  At this point, I don’t know what the hell to think, and it seems Martin doesn’t either.  What an odd, odd game.

Team

Four Factors USC A&M
eFG 44.7 60.2
TO% 28.7 13.5
Oreb% 46.9 32.1
FTR 42.5 27.8
Pace             59

It’s not too hard to see where Carolina went wrong – they couldn’t stop A&M from hitting shots well enough, and got dominated in the turnover battle in a way they haven’t been for quite a while.

One positive to take from the evening is that we were able to somewhat regain our footing in offensive rebounding, and we did a decent job of not losing the free throw battle that we’ve been getting mauled at throughout the year.  But frankly, this isn’t where the interesting action is for this game.  Let’s take a look at the players involved and how they impacted what happened.

Individual

South Carolina
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Michael Carrera
33
29
16
3-10
2-3
4-7
4
5
0
2
Bruce Ellington
32
25
10
2-7
1-3
3-5
0
2
6
2
Eric Smith
26
15
0
0-2
0-2
0-0
0
3
3
3
Brian Steele
25
8
3
0-0
1-3
0-0
0
2
0
1
Mindaugas Kacinas
25
21
8
3-7
0-0
2-2
2
2
0
2
RJ Slawson
14
20
3
1-1
0-0
1-2
2
1
0
2
Lakeem Jackson
14
13
2
1-2
0-0
0-0
2
1
0
1
Shane Phillips
13
16
2
1-1
0-1
0-0
0
0
3
1
Damien Leonard
10
30
3
0-0
1-2
0-0
0
1
0
3
Brenton Williams
7
9
1-1
1-2
4-4
0
0
0
0
Austin Constable
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
5
2
0
TOTAL
200
56
12-31
6-16
14-20
15
19
12
17
0.950
38.7%
37.5%
70.0%
46.9%
67.9%
66.7%
28.8%
Texas A&M
Name
Min
%Poss
Pts
2PM-A
3PM-A
FTM-A
OR
DR
A
TO
Elston Turner
36
33
28
6-9
4-8
4-4
0
4
5
1
Ray Turner
29
27
16
8-10
0-0
0-0
5
1
1
1
Kourtney Roberson
22
14
2
1-1
0-0
0-2
3
2
2
1
J’Mychal Reese
22
22
5
1-5
1-1
0-0
0
3
3
2
Alex Caruso
20
26
7
1-3
1-2
2-4
0
0
1
2
Fabyon Harris
27
32
12
3-8
1-3
3-5
1
3
3
1
Andrew Young
17
3
0
0-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Jordan Green
15
7
2
1-1
0-1
0-0
0
1
0
0
Jarod Jahns
11
6
2
1-1
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Blake McDonald
1
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Grant Jolly
0
0
0-0
0-0
0-0
0
0
0
0
Team
0
3
0
TOTAL
200
74
22-39
7-15
9-15
9
17
15
8
1.250
56.4%
46.7%
60.0%
32.1%
53.1%
51.7%
13.6%

So let’s start with the most interesting guys.  Steele was completely invisible on the offensive end of the floor – he only used 8 percent of possessions in 25 minutes, shifting an increasing amount of the offense onto others shoulders as a result.  He did go 1-3 from three-piont land and only committed one turnover, so he didn’t harm the team actively, but passivity on offense is it’s own harm.  He was also consistently blown past by Elston Turner and other A&M guards on the defensive end.

SHane Phillips was actually decent on the offensive end – he used 16 percent of our possessions and contributed to the use of even more than that by tacking on 3 assists to go with his 1-2 shooting (along with one turnover).  He also manned up Elston Turner (though at times we were in a box-and-one or triangle-and-two, meaning he had help) on the night and honestly didn’t look completely overmatched, though it was clear those minutes could’ve been used far more effectively.

And while those guys probably didn’t make 18 points worth of difference, it’s a damn shame that Martin thought he needed to throw this game to prove this point, especially considering the two guys whose playing time hasn’t been in issue – Bruce Ellington and Eric Smith – still got over 25 minutes each.  Smith had another horrific night on the offensive end, and some of that stems from the fact that he had fewer teammates to help him on the offensive end (Smith is a guy who thrives off assists and getting shots within the offense, not creating).  Elington had another decent evening all things considered, but I still don’t think we’re going to win a whole lot of basketball games where he uses over 25 percent of our possessions.  Last night, he used 29 percent.

The other mainstays in the line-up as the evening wore on was Michael Carrera and Mindaugas Kacinas, the latter of whom had seen very limited playing time recently coming into Saturday evening.  Carrera had another fine evening where he used a ton of possessions, shot efficiently enough (including 2-3 from 3-point land), got to the line frequently, grabbed rebounds, and even avoided turnovers by and large.  Another fine game from Michael on a team where he’s too often the only guy who can say that, though he’s still frequently too small to play the 4 and 5 role that’s required of him given this roster.

Kacinas saw 25 minutes and once again did a decent enough job offensively, even using over 20 percent of possessions in a game where he played over 12 minutes for the first time since December 29 against Presbyterian.  His 3-7 from the field with two made free throws and two offensive rebounds (though somewhat offset by two turnovers) was a decent enough offensive outing, though once again he and pretty much everyone struggled to stop A&M, at least late.

Also, though he didn’t play significant minutes, Brenton Williams was incredibly effective in his limited time on the court, scoring nine points on 2-3 shooting (to go with a 4-4 effort from the line) and avoiding turnovers.  I hope he stays around next season, because if he can round out as a player, he can really help us.

It took the Aggies a while to get going, but once they did they didn’t turn back.  Ray Turner specifically hit fire around the 10 minute mark, and overall his 8-10 evening from the field shows just how little we did to stop him once he got going (with five offensive rebounds to boot, the 6’9″ senior kept our pace of not being able to slow anyone inside in SEC play).

On the outside, Elston Turner did what Elston Turner does, using 33 percent of possessions in 36 minutes to score 28 points on 10-17 shooting, while dishing out five assists (to only one turnover) and forcing four Carolina turnovers on steals.  While we’ve spent most of this season getting blistered from within the paint, on this evening, it was a similar inability to stop Turner on the outside that hurt us.  Whatever the rationale for playing Steele and Phillips, we looked brutal defensively down the stretch, and bled away 1.25 points per possession on the evening to a team averaging 0.995 in SEC play.

Fabyon Harris, the 5’11” freshman who put up 12 points on 4-11 shooting, was somewhat contained on his shot but also dished out three assists.  We also only forced one turnover out of the freshman point guard, and a team that has turned the ball over on over 20 percent of its possessions posted a TO% of under 15 percent.  They put the extra eight FGAs to work, though they were somewhat offset by our five additional FTAs, and the only reason shots were this close is we hit the offensive glass hard via Carrera and loose balls that went out of bounds.  Still, it was another night of getting hammered in 2P% in both directions.

Up Next

Overall, who the hell knows what to think about what happened in College Station?  I haven’t seen or heard an interview from Martin (one may have occurred, but I don’t think a single Carolina media outlet took the trip).  We’ll see if anything is said in the press conference on Tuesday, but this is one of the oddest game recaps I’ve ever written and one of the oddest games I’ve watched.  I’m still not sure what to think.

Up next for Carolina is the final home game of the season on Wednesday evening against Mississippi State, as winnable a game as we have on our SEC schedule.  Of course, State just confusingly took out Ole Miss in Starkville last night, so perhaps they’ll have “momentum” coming in (of course, if momentum meant very much, they probably would have a better overall SEC record than 3-13 after getting all that momentum from their 2-0 start).

There will be a lot to watch for in playing time, especially after whatever that was that happened on Saturday.  And of course, it’s Lakeem’s final game in the Colonial Life Arena.  Let’s send him out right.

 

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About marvinnedick

Blogging from the mid-Atlantic on Gamecock sports, as well as general musings on sports theory otherwise.
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3 Responses to A&M wins by 18, Martin shows only he and Bruce have job security

  1. Gary says:

    The game last night was a look into the mind of Frank Martin. He starts a walk-on. The first guard off the bench is a walk-on . BRich does not play. The worst backcourt in any major conference(Ellington and Smith) play most of the game. Brenton Williams plays 7 minutes and scores 9 points. Martin made it clear last night that he cares nothing about winning games, at least with this team. Martin plays his most talented offensive players a total of 7 minutes(Williams and Richardson). He plays Eric Smith, who can’t hit the ground with his hat, 26 minutes(0 points).

    From an outsider trying to look in, it seems to me that Martin is a guy whose main interest in basketball is not winning, but having players do things his way. He will not adapt what he does to take advantage of the abilities of his team, but insists on conformity to what he wants as the reason for giving playing time. Brenton Williams is easily the most talented player the Gamecocks have, in offensive basketball. But it is obvious that Frank has a problem with Brenton. I don’t know whether it is that Brent is not practicing well, or it is his naturally quiet nature, or a combination of things, but Martin does not like some things about Brenton Williams, and does not want him to play very much, no matter how much Williams might help the team win.

    On the other hand, of the players on this team, Martin really likes Ellington and Smith, as evidenced by the minutes he lets them play. Never mind that they are probably the two worst guards on the team in terms of offensive skills. They must either be practicing the way Martin wants, or he likes their personality. It is not related to basketball skill.

    If I were advising them, I would strongly recommend that when the season is over, Williams, Richardson, and Leonard seek a transfer. With Ellington and Smith scheduled to return next year, and with the recruits already lined up, Williams, Richardson and Leonard will be at the end of the bench next year on this team, and will rarely get in a game. If they don’t volunteer to leave, Frank will probably ask them to leave anyway. I would also advise Slawson and Geathers to transfer.

    I expect no more wins this season for USC. Martin is more interested in making his points than he is in winning games, and USC isn’t going to beat anybody anyway with a primary backcourt of Ellington, Smith, and a walk-on. Season over.

    • Gary says:

      Since I cannot edit my comments above, I want to say here that I would like to retract what I said. I am frustrated with USC basketball. Have been for a long time. I am sad that the team has not won more games for fine young men like Lakeem Jackson, who has worked very hard in his four years at USC and has been the victim of several things that were beyond his control, such as Archie’s injury, Holmes dismissal, and Lashay Page’s ineligibility. I am going to stop criticising our players and coaches. They all work very hard trying to win games and do their best, and they deserve my support, not my criticism.

  2. Pingback: Better Know An Opponent: Mississippi State (redux) |

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