South Carolina Gamecocks

Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Video: Frank Martin’s first pitch misses its mark

Leave a comment

One of the great things about ceremonial first pitches in baseball is it lets teams and communities honor deserving people.

The other great thing is that it often makes people look silly.

We got the best of both worlds Tuesday evening when South Carolina coach Frank Martin tossed out the first pitch at a game of the Class A affiliate of the New York Mets, the Columbia Fireflies.

Martin, who led his Gamecocks to an unlikely Final Four appearance just over a month ago, was, as the saying goes, juuuuuuust a bit outside with that offering to the catcher. He was also just a bit short, too.

Maybe the best part, though, was Martin rotating his shoulder after the wayward pitch, as if it was caused by some random mechanical glitch or a sudden physical issue. Like if one of his players blamed an errant 3-pointer on his hands being sweaty or something.

Martin’s pitch was nowhere near the worst we’ve seen from celebrity guests, but still funny enough that he’s likely to catch some guff from his players – and the Internet – about it.

WATCH: Frank Martin’s emotional answer to South Carolina’s Final Four run

Leave a comment

South Carolina, which began the NCAA Tournament as the No. 7 seed in the East Region, had its improbable Final Four run ended on Saturday night at the hands of Gonzaga, falling to the Bulldogs, 77-73, in the first of two national semifinals at the University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin has been a big storyline leading up to the Final Four. One of three coaches making their Final Four debut, Martin was once a longtime high school basketball coach, as well as a Miami nightclub bouncer.

He’s been an easy person to root for, his unlikely journey has been a combination of belief and passion. The latter of those two traits was on full display in a teary-eyed press conference following the heartbreaking loss to Gonzaga.

“There’s something powerful when you impact others,” Martin told reporters. “And what these kids have done is pretty special. When you get people to travel across the country by the masses because they believe in what you do, it’s powerful stuff. And they’ve impacted our community in an unbelievable way, which is worth so much more than the score of a game.

“It’s what it’s all about. These kids are great role models. There’s a lot of young kids that want to be the next Sindarius Thornwell, Justin McKie, and I don’t get to coach them anymore, but they’re part of my life forever.”

South Carolina ended the season with a 26-11 record.

VIDEO: Frank Martin’s sideline demeanor as a high school coach

Leave a comment

South Carolina coach Frank Martin has the reputation of being rather, shall we say, intense on the sidelines during games.

The coach has a stare that seemingly could bore a hole through his players when they do something that doesn’t reach his level of expectation. Martin’s demeanor, though, didn’t just come into form once he hit the college ranks.

He was plenty intense on high school sidelines as well.

Martin won three titles while at Miami Senior in the mid-1990s, coaching the likes of future pros Steve Blake and Udonis Haslem. Now having reached his first career Final Four, that sideline persona has put him on the precipice of winning yet another championship, this time at the collegiate level.

No. 13 Florida continues hot streak with win over South Carolina

AP Photo/Matt Stamey
Leave a comment

Things keep rolling for Florida, all the way to a nine-game winning streak and a de facto SEC regular season championship game in Lexington this weekend.

The Gators’ offense was lethally efficient and its defense stout in their 81-66 over South Carolina on Tuesday to likely end the Gamecocks’ long-shot SEC title aspirations while seriously bolstering their own chances.

Florida did its damage offensively in some of the most productive ways possible. The Gators connected from deep and converted from the free-throw line.  From distance, they were 9 of 19 (47.4 percent), and from the charity stripe, they were 22 of 27 (81.5 percent). That’s a winning formula almost every night out.

Maybe most encouraging for Florida was the return to dynamism of KeVaughn Allen. The sophomore guard had his best game in weeks, going 5 of 7 from the field – including 3 of 5 from distance – and got to the line for 14 attempts, making 13. Allen hasn’t been able to get to the free-throw line with a ton of consistency – his free-throw rate is only 23.7 – but he has shown some flashes of forcing his way there recently with 14 tonight and 10 a week ago at Auburn. If he can even approach those numbers with regularity, it’ll be a huge boon for the 87.5 percent free-throw shooter. It should be a priority for him.

The offensive outburst by Allen and the Gators at large was especially impressive coming against a South Carolina team that possesses one of the country’s stingiest defenses. The Gamecocks are typically great at making life at the 3-point arc difficult for opponents, but Florida shredded them there.

Converting from the 3-point line certainly helped cover for the absence of 6-foot-11 center John Egbunu, who suffered a season-ending knee injury last week. Devin Robinson picked up the most slack inside, blocking three shots and grabbing six rebounds, and South Carolina wasn’t really able to do much damage on the offensive glass.

With its defense taking an atypical beating, South Carolina’s offense exhibited the issues that have plagued it all season long. The Gamecocks were 3 of 14 (21.4 percent) from 3-point range, and the lack of threats along the arc shrunk their spacing and allowed Florida to harass them inside. If the offense is going to be stifled – which it probably will be more often than not with an average effective field goal percentage ranked outside the top-300 nationally – the defense has to be elite, which it was far from against Florida.

South Carolina now finds itself in a bit of a precarious, if manageable, position. The Gamecocks have lost three-straight, not something a team that is doesn’t have a 100 percent secure position in the NCAA tournament. Yes, South Carolina has a solid resume, but this is sliding in the wrong direction at the worst time. The good news is that the final three games of the regular season – vs. Tennessee, vs. Mississippi State and at Mississippi – are wholly manageable. The bad news is a stumble against any of those teams isn’t going to be looked upon with much favor by the selection committee.

The big picture for Florida is much rosier. The Gators, as noted above, are steamrolling through the final stretch of the season. They’re staking their claim to a top-three tourney seed, and will have a chance to come very close to claiming regular season SEC superiority Saturday as well.

Florida, which blasted Kentucky 88-66 earlier this month, travels to Rupp Arena to take on the No. 11 Wildcats. Both teams will be sporting 13-2 conference records (assuming Kentucky gets by/doesn’t implode at Missouri tonight) with two games left on the schedule after Saturday in which they’ll both be heavy favorites. Even if Kentucky can’t leave Columbia with a win (pause for laughter), a conference championship – whether outright or shared – will be on the line.

It might not garner the same fervor as the one played in December at the Georgia Dome, but there’s going to be a heck of an SEC title game this weekend.

South Carolina’s Thornwell to return from suspension Wednesday

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Sindarius Thornwell will return from a suspension that has kept him out of the South Carolina lineup for the last six games when the Gamecocks visit Georgia on Wednesday.

“Sindarius has taken full responsibility for his mistake that led to his suspension,” head coach Frank Martin said. “He has worked hard over the course of the last few weeks and has done everything we’ve asked of him to make his way back to the court.”

Thornwell is averaging 18.7 points, 6.7 boards and 4.1 assists on the season. The Gamecocks have gone just 3-3 in his absence, with one of those wins coming against something called Lander. Those losses are going to hurt, but in the long run the South Carolina team may be better off; in Thornwell’s absence, P.J. Dozier has played like an all-american. The duo of Dozier and Thornwell look like they may be the best pair of guards in the SEC not named Monk and Fox.

Dozier, Notice lead No. 16 South Carolina past USF 77-66

Michael Reaves/Getty Images
Leave a comment

TAMPA, Fla. — PJ Dozier scored 11 of his 23 points in the closing minutes and No. 16 South Carolina shrugged off cold shooting to pull away to a 77-66 victory over South Florida on Saturday.

The Gamecocks (9-1) rebounded from their only loss of the season while improving to 2-1 without leading scorer and rebounder Sindarius Thornwell, who has been suspended indefinitely for violating athletic department policy.

Duane Notice of the Gamecocks scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half after missing all eight shots he took before the break.

Jahmal McMurray led USF (5-4) with 25 points. Malik Fitts had 12 points and Geno Thorpe finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who led 37-31 at halftime.

South Carolina began the second half with a 17-9 burst to take a 48-41 lead. Dozier and Notice keyed the initial surge and Dozier took over down the stretch, when the Gamecocks led by as many as 13.

THE BIG PICTURE

South Carolina, which has its highest ranking since being No. 14 in the final poll of the 1997-98 season, obviously misses Thornwell, who leads them in assists, as well as scoring and rebounding. With Notice missing the first eight shots he attempted, including six from 3-point range, the Gamecocks trailed at halftime for the first time this season.

Not surprisingly, South Florida faded down the stretch. Luis Santos made a layup to trim South Carolina’s lead to 64-61 with 7 minutes left, however the Bulls didn’t score again from the field until Bo Zeigler’s basket with 29 seconds left.

USF fell to 0-4 against ranked opponents under coach Orlando Antigua and have dropped 20 consecutive games to Top 25 opponents since knocking off No. 15 Louisville on the road on Feb. 29, 2012.

UNIENDO LOS TOROS

USF designated Saturday as Uniendo Los Toros, which in English translates to Uniting The Bulls. The game featured two of three Hispanic-American head coaches in NCAA Division I in South Carolina’s Frank Martin and USF’s Antigua. Miami’s Jim Larranaga is the third. Early arrivals among a small crowd at the Sun Dome received white T-shirts commemorating the occasion.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: Returns home to face intrastate rival Clemson on Wednesday.

South Florida: Faces Northern Illinois at home on Tuesday.

More AP college basketball: http://www.collegebasketball.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP-Top25