(All photos courtesy of Gary Moore)
Less than 24 hours removed from winning their sixth consecutive road game after defeating UNC Wilmington, Manhattan attempts to improve to 7-0 away from Draddy Gym when the Jaspers head to Colonial Life Arena to face Frank Martin and South Carolina tomorrow night in a rematch of last year's defensive battle at the Barclays Center, one in which the Gamecocks prevailed after seizing momentum from a technical foul assessed to Manhattan coach Steve Masiello in the second half.
As he did several times last season, our friend Gary Moore of The College Hardwood has returned to provide a closer look at South Carolina, who is located right inside his home base of Columbia. Without further ado, here's Gary's scouting report of the Gamecocks and the matchup they present to the Jaspers:
Greetings again, this is Gary Moore from the College Hardwood with a preview of the South Carolina Gamecocks, Manhattan's next opponent on Tuesday night. This is my second season covering University of South Carolina Basketball and the Gamecocks have eight new players in Frank Martin's second season at the helm. I have had a chance to see the Gamecocks in person so far twice this season. Here's a scouting report of South Carolina.
South Carolina has only played five games this season, which are the second fewest games played by a Division I team so far this season. (Grambling State has only played three games as of December 12)
Frank Martin's Gamecocks are 2-3 on the season with their wins coming over Longwood and Florida International at home. All three losses are on the road; a two-point heartbreaker at #14 Baylor, a fourteen-point loss at intrastate archrival Clemson and a twenty-seven point drubbing at the hands of #7 Oklahoma State. Those three teams are a combined 23-4.
I was at Colonial Life Arena for the wins over Longwood and FIU. The Gamecocks started out slowly in the first fifteen minutes against the Lancers, as they were only up 18-11 after nearly fifteen minutes, but South Carolina outscored Longwood 64-33 the rest of the way to win convincingly 82-44.
In their second home game, the Gamecocks again struggled at the beginning of the game as the Golden Panthers actually took a 42-39 lead into halftime and still led 51-49 with thirteen minutes left in the game. However, a 12-4 run would propel South Carolina to an 84-72 win.
Villanova transfer Tyrone Johnson starts at point guard for the Gamecocks. He leads the Gamecocks in scoring at 12.2 points per game, assists at 4.4 per game and minutes, averaging 31.2 minutes per game. Johnson is averaging a 2:1 ratio in assists to turnovers per game.
Freshman Sindarius Thornwell is the Gamecocks' second leading scorer, averaging 11.8 points per game. He scored a career high 20 points against Baylor. Thornwell has struggled in his last two games, shooting 6-of-17 from the field and failing to score in double digits after scoring in double digits in the first three games.
Sophomore Michael Carrera has struggled in his first five games. Despite averaging the same number of minutes as last season, the forward from Venezuela is averaging 6.6 points and 6 rebounds a game, both categories slightly down from last season. Carrera's field goal percentage is at 32 percent, which is down significantly from 44 percent last season.
Carrera is a favorite with Gamecock fans. Carrera brings a lot of energy to the team when he is on the court. As I noted last season, he is the South American answer to former Stony Brook forward Tommy Brenton. Carrera is always hustling, sometimes too much, which gets him in foul trouble.
Perhaps the most improved Gamecock is sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas. Kacinas has seen a significant increase in minutes; 29 minutes per game this season, up 14 minutes from last season. That has resulted in him averaging 7.6 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. Kacinas is also shooting 53.6 percent from the field.
Freshman Demetrius Henry has also been a very solid presence up front for the Gamecocks. Henry is averaging 8.4 points and 5.6 rebounds per game. He scored 14 points in the win over FIU.
South Carolina has greatly increased the depth on their team from last season, as eleven players average nine minutes or more per game.
Bruce Ellington, one of two seniors on the team, has only played one game for the Gamecocks this season. That's due to the fact that he is also one of the best wide receivers for the Gamecocks' football team. Ellington played seventeen minutes in the loss to Oklahoma State, scoring both of his points on free throws. Ellington is the most beloved Gamecock due in large part to his football exploits, and when he gets a basket or a steal, a loud "BRUUUUUCE" chant will echo through Colonial Life Arena.
With the additions of Thornwell, Johnson and several freshman guards, sixth man senior guard Brenton Williams has seen a slight decrease in minutes. A year ago, Williams was the Gamecocks' leading scorer, averaging 11 points per game, shooting 44 percent from the field and 38 percent from beyond the arc. This season, Williams is averaging 8.4 points per game while only shooting 38 percent from the field, including 32 percent from beyond the arc. Williams is still lethal from the free throw line, shooting a perfect 12-of-12 from the line after shooting 84 percent last season.
Freshman Jaylen Shaw only averages 12.5 minutes a game, but he scores a lot in those few minutes. Shaw is averaging 7.8 points per game while shooting 62.5 percent from the field. Shaw is 7-of-12 from beyond the arc this season and also is second in total assists on the team with 10.
Freshman Duane Notice is the backup point guard, averaging nearly fourteen minutes per game. He averages 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds per game.
Sophomore six-foot-eleven forward Laimonas Chatkevicius is averaging 9.5 minutes per game. He averages two points and a little over two rebounds per game. Freshman forward Desmond Ringer averages 1.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game.
After averaging eleven minutes and two points per game last season, sophomore walk-on forward Brian Steele has only played for one minute in one game this season. Freshman Justin McKie, son of South Carolina great B.J. McKie and Reggie Theus Jr., son of basketball great Reggie Theus, have only played sparingly in three games and two games, respectively.
Obviously, depth is a strength with the Gamecocks' eleven-man rotation. They can go six-deep with their guards. South Carolina has much more size than last season with the additions of the six-foot-nine Henry and the six-foot-nine Ringer.
Defensively, the Gamecocks have been solid. They are third in the SEC in FG percentage defense at 39.6 percent, as well as third in three-point FG percentage defense at 28.6 percent. They are sixth in the SEC in scoring defense at 66.4 points per game and are fifth in rebounding margin in the SEC at +5.6 rebounds per game.
Offensively, the Gamecocks are a good free throw shooting team, averaging 70 percent from the line, which is fifth in the SEC. They are also fifth in the SEC in three-point FG percentage, shooting 35.3 percent per game.
This is a very young team that starts three sophomores and two freshmen, so it is no surprise they have struggled at the start of the season. They are not shooting the ball well, as they are 287th in the country in FG percentage at 41.7 percent and are 282nd in the country at points per game at 67.8 points per game (which is also last in the SEC).
Despite their depth, it has not translated into double-figure scoring depth. Only Johnson and Thornwell are averaging in double digits. In each of their two wins, the Gamecocks had four players score in double figures. In their three losses, only two Gamecocks scored in double figures.
Frank Martin is entering his second season with the Gamecocks. Last season was his first season as a head coach without a postseason appearance. In his five previous years at Kansas State, Martin coached his teams to four NCAA Tournaments, as well as an NIT appearance. In each year his team made the NCAA Tournament, his Wildcats won at least one game in the tournament. In 2009-10, his team made the Elite Eight.
Gamecock fans truly love watching Martin on the sidelines. There is no subtlety, pretense or hiding emotion with Martin. He wears his heart on his sleeve, or in his case, his hand over his face when his team is not playing well. His burning death stare is already legendary in Columbia, and you can hear him often as clear as a bell on the court. Late in the game vs. FIU, Martin screamed at Carrera "WHY ARE YOU DRIBBLING?!" when Carrera was fumbling around with the ball. The crowd was in stitches at another priceless Martin moment.
The game against Manhattan will be the Gamecocks' first game since the twenty-seven point loss to Oklahoma on December 6, and it will be another nonconference home game. The Gamecocks have only lost one nonconference home game in the past two seasons.
Frank Martin's team has much more talent than last season. The problem is that the Gamecocks are also very young with only two seniors, both of whom come off the bench. They are just finding their way offensively.
South Carolina was greatly bothered by Oklahoma State's height and aggressive defense. The Gamecocks committed a season high twenty-four turnovers against the Cowboys. This doesn't bode well against Manhattan's pressure defense. The Gamecocks will need to cut down on the turnovers and get balanced double-figure scoring from at least three of their players to defeat a very talented, aggressive and experienced Jaspers team.