Deja Vu is normally an unpleasant experience, and for fans of Gamecock basketball it’s been a relived nightmare when it comes to the month of February.
During tonight’s broadcast a graphic appeared in the bottom-right hand corner of the screen that read: Frank Martin, 13-25 in the month of February at South Carolina.
The first three years of Martin’s tenure this never stood out because that kind of record just blended in with the rest of those seasons. Last year it was noticeable, however the fan base just brushed off the collapse on a young team not ready for the big time yet.
But here we are again, South Carolina is 3-4 this February after starting the season 17-4 — much like last season when the Gamecocks started 19-2 and left February 23-6. Is this a trend? It’s tough to say.
South Carolina’s 81-66 loss to Florida probably didn’t help suspicions that Martin’s teams at South Carolina collapse down the stretch. Now it’s true that we have a five year sample of this — which is normally a big enough sample size to illustrate a legit trend Gamecock fans might have to suffer.
On the other hand, South Carolina in the last two years is 7-8 in February. While that’s not a great benchmark, it’s not as bad as 13-26. Martin’s tenure has seen South Carolina truly competitive for a tournament spot for only two seasons, so whether or not it’s time to panic is purely up to the reader.
Now the good news about tonight’s loss is it’s probably not going to ding South Carolina’s resume too bad. Florida’s a rising team who ESPN analyst Seth Greenburg called an “Elite Eight or Final Four” type team on the halftime show. And the game was at Florida, so if South Carolina could drop a game in February this would be the one to drop.
The problem is the loss —a 15-point loss at that — is coming at the worst possible time. As previously mentioned South Carolina is in a bit of a nosedive, having now lost four of their last five. While it’s not an awful loss by any means, it’s not going to do much in relieving the anxieties of fans who are afraid of missing the big dance again.
The way the game began certainly didn’t ease those anxieties — especially if you had just tuned in from South Carolina’s wire-to-wire win over Charlotte in baseball. With 8:32 left in the first half South Carolina was within three points of Florida, but the Gators would answer with a big 12-0 run to go ahead 28-16.
However, South Carolina had a run of their own in store to respond. After scoring 16 points in the first 12 minutes of the half, the Gamecocks would score 19 in the final eight — including a 9-0 run to eventually tie the game at 28 before Florida went into the half with a 35-33 lead.
At that point it didn’t seem unfathomable the Gamecocks couldn’t pull back ahead and steal one on the road, but foul trouble on Sindarious Thornwell would stymie any effort of a comeback.
Thornwell had a great game, scoring 23 points on 6-12 shooting with ten rebounds and a perfect 11-11 from the free throw line. However Thornwell had picked up three fouls early in the game, killing his minutes early on. As a matter of fact Thornwell had taken just six shots going into the last ten minutes of the game because he had been sat for so long.
But by the time Thornwell had heated up it was too late, as Florida had outscored South Carolina 46-33 by shooting 62.5 percent from three in the second half. Not to mention KeVaugn Allen — who averages 13.1 points a game normally — scored 26 points on just seven shots.
No one came in behind Thornwell to pick up the slack either. P.J. Dozier shot 3-12 from the field and played with three fouls, while Maik Kostar and Chris Silva each played with their usual four while combining for 12 points and only two rebounds.
After the past six games, this series of tweets seems completely relevant right now.
I feel a South Carolina players only meeting coming in the next day or two.— Brian Rauf (@brauf33) February 22, 2017
And it's just gonna be Sindarius Thornwell yelling and wondering why he has to do everything— Brian Rauf (@brauf33) February 22, 2017
Thornwell famously said he “wasn’t going to let this happen again” — and while he did all in his power tonight he can’t be the only player on the court producing. Someone else has to step up if South Carolina wants to avoid the same fate as last season.
After the last two weeks, Saturday’s game against Tennessee looks to be bigger than ever. If South Carolina ever needed a slump buster, it’s got to be the Vols on Saturday.