South Carolina had five players score in double-figures and win the rebounding battle against Morgan State to win comfortably over the Bears 87-71 even though the Gamecocks were out-sized by the Bears in the post.
Carrera sat out tonight with a concussion that he suffered earlier in practice and was held out of tonight's game as a precaution. Martin indicated after the game that they will take a 'wait-and-see' approach with Carrera and will have to be cleared by the doctors before returning to action.
Several Gamecocks stepped up in his absence starting with Lashay Page. Page scored 20 points tonight and added five rebounds along with one assist and two steals to the lead the Gamecocks to the 16-point victory over the Bears.
"He's a good player," Morgan State head coach Todd Bozeman said about Page. "He's a scorer and we knew that coming. I thought in the first half we did a decent job on him to keep him inside. But like I said, he's a scorer and once he got going a little bit he created some open spaces for some guys and they responded to it."
Joining Page in double-figures were R.J. Slawson (10 points), Brenton Williams (14 points), Eric Smith (17 points) and Brian Richardson (10 points).
The Gamecocks were able to win the rebounding battle 35-22 over Morgan State, including 13 offensive rebounds in the game. The Gamecocks were able to add 19 points on second chance opportunities and scored 22 points off of 20 turnovers tonight.
It wasn't always easy for South Carolina as they trailed for a good portion of the first half. The Gamecocks tied the game at 2-2 with 18:41 in the first half and wouldn't tie it up with the Bears until the 9:04 mark. From there though, it was all South Carolina as USC would close out the first half with 23 points to take a halftime lead into the locker-room at 45-41.
The start of the second half saw the Bears draw it close at 45-44 with 19:32 remaining in the second half. However, the Bears would never get it any closer than that as the Gamecocks lead would be close, but far enough out of reach to where the Bears would never contend for a chance to upset the Gamecocks. The closest the Bears would get would be 65-60 with 9:37 left in the game but South Carolina would add to its lead and never look back.
An impressive performance in the second half for the Gamecocks came from RJ Slawson. Slawson scored eight of his 10 points in the second half and was also a force on the boards with seven rebounds for the game. He also added the Gamecocks only blocked shot of the night for South Carolina. Coach Martin had this to say after the game about Slawson: "We need RJ to be a good player for us. We need him to have confidence." This performance tonight may be the confidence Slawson needs going forward as the Gamecocks will need his presence in the post.
So , after a 16-point victory in a game that featured five scorers in double-figures along with 53-percent shooting from the field and 81-percent shooting from the free throw line, you'd think the head coach would be happy.
Not Frank Martin.
"I want to thank our fans for coming out to support us," said Martin after Friday's game. "It's awesome on a Friday night. Get your students to come out and be excited about watching your team play but I'm also embarrassed. I'm embarrassed by our performance. I'm embarrassed people paid money for their tickets and gave up their time to come watch our team play today. I'm embarrassed. We've been real good for about two weeks – 17 days or so – but we probably could have had a kindergarden class be more enthusiastic and disciplined in practice than our team. I truly believe you perform the way you practice and we obviously performed that way to do."
Martin continued to vent his frustrations after the game regarding South Carolina's performance.
"We didn't do anything. Not one thing that we talked about doing to help our team figure out a way to win games. We just won because we won. We didn't win because who we are or how we play."
Strong words from the head coach but it's brutal honesty that has been lacking around this program for the last few years. If anything, Martin will continue to push towards improvement and the Gamecocks will focus on the little things that Martin wants to be corrected. One of those things is communication on the court. Martin said that Lashay Page and Michael Carrera are verbal out on the court but no one else. "Everyone else does their talking on Twitter," according to Coach Martin. Another issue to be worked on would be the Gamecocks defense. Martin called it "atrocious" on Friday night.
A few other things that Martin mentioned after the game were, "guarding the basketball, rules off the ball- where do you belong, don't play behind people, help teammates out and shrink the gaps."
Right now, it sounds like a lot of work but there are some positives to take away tonight. South Carolina was able to utilize its speed against the Bears tonight which neutralizes the size advantage they had over the Gamecocks. Martin was also pleased that the team took several charges tonight.
South Carolina will have the weekend to fix the issues and will return to the court on Monday to take on Rider at 7:00 p.m. ET.
-The Gamecocks shot 50-percent or greater in both halves in tonight's game. The first half saw South Carolina shoot an even 50-percent on 15-of-30 attempts while the second half saw the Gamecocks shoot 55.6-percent from the field on 15-of-27 attempts.
-South Carolina finished the game 21-of-26 from the free throw line. Dating back to the first game, South Carolina is now 47-of-57 for 82.4-percent from the free throw line this season.
-Lashay Page has scored in double-figures in both games as a Gamecock so far in his career. Page opened the season with 19 points against Wisconsin-Milwaukee and followed it up tonight with a game-high 20 points.
-The Gamecocks were 6-of-16 from the three-point line tonight after going 0-of-11 from the three-point line in the first game. Lashay Page and Brian Richardson both hit two three-pointers against Morgan State.
-Walkon Shane Phillips saw his first action of the season in the closing seconds of tonight's game. He was the only Gamecock who played that did not score a basket in Friday's 87-71 victory.