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Gamecocks ready to host Hogs

Following the loss to Missouri, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin once again expressed his disappointment with his team’s play in the final moments of the game. For Martin it has more to do with the team’s mindset and having them developing the mindset of winning instead of being afraid to make a play.

South Carolina guard Bruce Ellington

Date: Saturday, Jan. 26, 2013
Tipoff: 1:47 p.m. ET
Location: Columbia, S.C.
Arena: Colonial Life Arena (18,000)
Series: Arkansas leads 14-10
Television: SEC Network

“This song and dance of having breakdowns coming down the stretch, not making shots, not making free throws coming down the stretch, that song and dance is getting old,” Martin said. “We have 13 more games to go and we have to keep pushing that door and hopefully crack it open eventually and play with a little courage coming down the stretch rather than fearful of winning.”

The coaching staff has put forth some very good game plans that have been executed almost to perfection. The problem seems to be in the final two minutes of each game as the Gamecocks (11-7, 1-4) stand just 1-4 in conference play but have been either leading or within two points of their opponent with two minutes remaining in each contest.

The ability to make a play and close the game out is not something that coaches can necessarily teach but, according to assistant coach Lamont Evans, they work with their players on that situation in practice every day.

“We put guys in situations,” he said. “We put guys in two to three minute games. We go over that situation and that is just an aura that you have to have when you walk on the court, just to have that confidence. We want guys to take shots and make shots but you have to live through those moments and believe in one’s self and the team.”

One of the guys the Gamecocks are looking to step up is point guard Bruce Ellington. In the past three games, Ellington has made just 8-of-37 shots attempts including missing all nine shots from three-point range. The stats from the free throw line have not been much better as Ellington has made just 5-of-12 attempts from the charity stripe.

Even though the shots have not been falling for Ellington, it is not because of a lack of effort put forth between games. According to Evans, the two-sport star just needs something positive to happen for him.

“Everything is OK, he is a confident kid,” Evans said. “When you walk out of the gym after practice he is in the gym taking shots. I sit there watching tape and he will be in there taking shots. I think things will turn around for him he just needs one to go in towards the end of a ball game or during a crucial point that goes in. He just has to keep believing and shooting that shot.”

Arkansas enters Saturday contest led by sophomore B.J. Young who is averaging 17 points and four assists per game. The 6-foot-2 guard has scored in double digits in nine consecutive games and in 16 of the Razorbacks 18 games this season.

Razorbacks head coach Mike Anderson has brought back the “40 minutes of Hell” defense that was popular in the late 1990’s under then coach Nolan Richardson. This season they rank 15th nationally in steals averaging nine per game led junior Mardracus Wade. South Carolina continues to be among the worst teams in the country at turnovers, averaging 16 per game placing them 329 out of 345 teams nationally.

With those statistics a concern for the coaching staff, they have focused on a few drills during practice this week to prepare their ball club.

“Just picking up guys 94 feet,” he said. “Pressuring the ball, going through different drills, maybe five guys in a three man drill or five on five and throwing an extra man in there. Referring the game with the coaching staff not calling the foul because of the rough play in the SEC and you can’t expect to get a call an keep playing.”

During the past few ball games Gamecock center Laimonas Chatkevicius has received the start in order to give them more height at the beginning of the ball game. Evans was not sure who would start when the teams tipped off on Saturday but believes the Gamecocks will need Chatkevicius and the rest of the post players to have a solid performance on Saturday in order to pick up a much needed conference victory.

“We have to use our size to pressure the rim,” he said. “At the end of the day, getting the ball inside to play outside and I think we will stay with the same lineup because at the end of the day you need size. I know they are motored up but size does help with the rebounding and changing ends of the floor.”

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