It wasn't pretty. It wasn't easy. But Frank Martin has his first win as the South Carolina head basketball coach.
Martin and South Carolina pulled out a close victory on Tuesday over Kentucky Wesleyan by the score of 68-67 thanks to a Brenton Williams layup with just 2.6 second remaining to give South Carolina the one-point lead. Kentucky Wesleyan's Kreig Oxley threw up a desperation three-pointer that came up short and South Carolina secured its first victory for new coach Frank Martin.
Williams was the star of the game for South Carolina with his game-high 22 points on 5-of-9 shooting, including 3-of-6 from three-point range. Williams was also 9-of-10 from the free throw line and provided three rebounds, three assists, one block and three steals. The Gamecocks had three other scorers reach double-digits in the scoring column Tuesday night with Lakeem Jackson adding 13 points, Michael Carrera adding 12 points and Eric Smith adding 11 points.
It took awhile for the Gamecocks to get into the groove of the game that resulted in Kentucky Wesleyan building an 11-point lead over South Carolina in the first half. However, the Gamecocks would finally get its offense going with under seven minutes to play as USC went on a 20-4 run to close the half and finish with a six-point lead at halftime 37-31.
The strong close to the first half did not carry over for South Carolina as right out of the gate, Kentucky Wesleyan went on a 9-0 run to retake the lead from South Carolina. From this point forward, the game would be a seesaw match back and forth with back teams exchanging leads a total of 10 times in the second half before the deciding basket by Brenton Williams.
On that final play for Williams, he indicated in the post-game that Frank Martin drew up the play during the timeout and told him to take the ball to the rim if he had an opening. Williams did and used his quickness and speed to get to the rim and nail the game-winner for South Carolina.
"I knew I was going to run something for him, because he's so fast," coach Frank Martin said after the game. "Brenton was able to get himself open there."
While the end result gave South Carolina victory, Martin knows tonight's game was a mixed bag for the Gamecocks.
"You saw some of the good that I see, and you also saw some of the bad that I see."
There is work to be done for sure but coach Martin indicated that there was no game-plan for tonight's matchup between the Gamecocks and Kentucky Wesleyan. Martin indicated that this was a game to put the players out there and "let them go with it."
Coach Martin also indicated the frustration tonight with the Gamecocks in rebounding and screening during tonight's game. South Carolina's big men – R.J. Slawson and Laimonas Chatkevicius - combined for 39 minutes tonight and had a total of one rebound. Martin commented that if he had played for 39 minutes with his eight knee surgeries and 55 pounds overweight, he would have had more than one rebound.
South Carolina was missing some of its key contributors tonight, including Bruce Ellington, Damien Leonard and Lashay Page, so the lack of offense will likely pick up with their return.
Still, the Gamecocks will certainly need to focus on their attention to detail. Martin was not pleased with it on Tuesday night but it's not something he's concerned with now.
"Those are things we can correct."
You can bet those corrections will start right away.
South Carolina's regular season will start on November 11 at 3 p.m. Against Milwaukee as part of the Hoops for Hope Classic and the game will be televised on FSN.
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