‘We’re gonna figure this out.’ Gamecocks remain positive despite losing streak

·4 min read

It isn’t easy to wipe the smile from Keyshawn Bryant’s face.

Even with the South Carolina men’s basketball team in the midst of a three-game losing streak, the senior forward refuses to let the losses shake his positive spirit. Head coach Frank Martin has said that Bryant has grown as a leader and a motivator, and leadership is what these Gamecocks need now more than ever.

Coming off losses at Tennessee, against Florida at home and most recently at Arkansas, the Gamecocks (10-7) are just 1-4 in SEC play and will remain out of the NCAA tournament picture if they aren’t able to make up ground in the next 13 conference games. Their next game comes at home against last-place Georgia (5-13, 0-5) at 3:30 p.m. Saturday — a golden opportunity to end their losing skid.

The Gamecocks have won 10 straight against the Bulldogs, including both contests last season.

“It’s been a bumpy start,” Bryant said Friday. “Not just for me but for us as a whole. But my main concern is stay positive through this whole thing, continue to be the motivation and continue to be the spirit and energy this team needs.”

Despite the rough patch, Bryant and the Gamecocks have tried to maintain an optimistic head space. Players point to the fact that many of the team’s issues of late have been self-inflicted — namely turnovers and excessive fouling — and those kinds of problems are correctable.

Other issues are a little more befuddling. The Gamecocks have missed a bevy a wide-open looks in the last two games, and not just from the 3-point line. Between the Florida game and Arkansas game combined, USC has shot 10-of-38 on layups, according to the team’s live stat-tracking service.

In the wake of the Arkansas loss, Martin and the Gamecocks have tried to hone in on the first half of that game, which USC led 40-33 and which featured some of the best offensive basketball the Gamecocks have displayed in conference play.

“We talk about it all the time: There are games we definitely could have won, and we just let it get away,” said sophomore forward Josh Gray, who posted eight points and 11 rebounds against the Razorbacks.

“But we’ve been positive. Although we gave away a couple of games, and we’re off to a bad start, we’ve all played hard. We’ve never given up during the game. A prime example I felt like was Arkansas. We gave up a large chunk of our lead in the beginning the second half, and then we continued to just fight, fight, fight until the end.”

Brandon Martin, Frank’s son and an important role player off the bench, said that his father addressed the team during practice Thursday, telling the Gamecocks that “January is when teams either sink or they float.”

To keep from sinking, the Gamecocks will need to regain the identity they showed during much of conference play: an aggressive defensive team that scores in transition and pounds the glass.

The addition of freshman Devin Carter to the lineup at point guard, who scored 20 points against the Hogs in his first career start, seemed to provide a jolt of energy at Arkansas. So, too, has Bryant’s reemergence in the starting lineup at the 4 position after playing off the bench for the bulk of the season.

Bryant has a knack for jumpstarting the Gamecocks with his highlight-reel dunks, but the veteran knows that during a stretch like this one, he needs to give even more.

“There’s more ways to keep your team going than putting the ball in the rim,” Bryant said. “So even if it’s just helping a teammate out on a play on defense, or somebody got in trouble and he’s getting yelled at by Frank, I just look at him, make sure his head’s up, make sure everyone’s positive.

“We’re gonna figure this out.”

Next USC men’s basketball game

Who: South Carolina vs. Georgia

When: 3:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Colonial Life Arena in Columbia

Watch: SEC Network

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