Carolina faces tough SEC road test

First-year head coach Frank Martin knew his team was banging on the door and about to break through for a big win sooner or later. Saturday afternoon against Arkansas it came with the Gamecocks scoring its first double-digit win over an SEC opponent since March 7, 2009. According to Martin, it was something that has been building as the Gamecocks (12-7, 2-4) continue to learn a key element to playing under their new head coach.

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin

OPENING TIP
Date: Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2013
Tipoff: 8 p.m. ET
Location: Gainesville, Fla.
Arena: Stephen C. O'Connell Center (11,548)
Series: Florida leads 39-22
Last Meeting: Florida win, 74-66, Feb. 2, 2012 in Gainesville, Fla.
Television: SEC Network

“Our guys are trying,” Martin said. “Our biggest weakness when we started back in October was listening. Our guys struggled to listen, we have gotten a lot better there and it is no surprise we have also improved as a team. Guys are starting to understand that listening is a very important skill.

Even though the Gamecocks were able to put together their most complete performance of the season against the Razorbacks, they are still far from a finished product. When asked during his weekly press conference what the identity of his team was after six league games, Martin was unsure of the answer.

“I don’t think we are anywhere near where we need to be to have an identity,” Martin said. “I can tell you our guys are playing hard and trying. I think offensively and defensively we are leaps and bounds ahead of where we were at September 1 or January 1 for that matter.”

Despite not having something that Martin was willing to call an identity for his team, he did point towards two different facets of the game that he is pleased with from his ball club.

“We are playing with passion and rebounding well,” Martin said. “Those two things are important to our staff and I know we harp on that a lot so it is good to see that our players are doing some of the things we are asking from them.”

Although the Gamecocks may be playing hard and improving under Martin each time out, they will face their stiffest test of the season on Wednesday night when they travel to Gainesville, Fla. The Gators (16-2, 6-0) enter the game ranked No. 4 nationally and are coming off a 35-point beating of Mississippi State on Saturday. Even more impressive is the Gators have won all 16 of their games this season by double-digits with six of those wins coming by 30 or more points.

The South Carolina defense will be tested by a Florida offense that features several different weapons. Kenny Boynton enters as the leading scorer averaging 13.6 points per game but three other Gators average double digit points as well.

For Martin, the versatility of the Gators along with the experience they have presents problems that will force all five Gamecocks to lock in defensively.

“If you only have two guys willing to screen and pass it makes it easier to guard,” he said. “Everyone of their guys screen and every one of their guys passes which enables them to have balance because you have to guard everybody.”

Tipoff is scheduled for 8 p.m. with television coverage from the SEC Network.

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