A day after Illinois State had success against South Carolina by using a zone defense, UTEP started out trying the same approach in Friday’s second round of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off at Myrtle Beach.
The Gamecocks responded by making 11 of their first 15 shots, including four 3-pointers, in jumping out to a 28-15 lead on the way to an easy 80-56 victory over the Miners.
“They solved (the zone) overnight,” UTEP coach Tim Floyd said. “They must have had a heck of a film session.”
Actually, South Carolina’s entire approach to Friday’s game was different from their attitude on Thursday, when they looked sluggish in a 69-65 loss to Illinois State. Faced with their second consecutive morning tip-off, the Gamecocks (3-1) played loud music on the bus during the 15-minute trip to the HTC Center and refused to allow any of the players to nap along the way.
“A couple of guys did doze off, and we’d tap them and say, ‘Get up. We got to get ready,’ ” junior guard Kory Holden said. “The way we came into the game yesterday ate at us all night. We talked it over and knew we had to be ready from the start today. It was a different approach for us.”
The change was obvious, as the Gamecocks made 54.8 percent of their first-half shots and built a 50-24 halftime lead. The day before against Illinois State, South Carolina shot 23.3 percent in the first half.
“We were just locked in. You could tell that after the first three possessions,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “We came out and played with energy, enthusiasm and discipline to start the game. I’m very proud of how our guys responded.
“This is a young team. We probably took for granted that their mindset would be the same as what last year’s mindset was (when the Gamecocks made the Final Four). We just kind of let them be, and we probably should have been more aggressive with our mental preparation. That goes back to us continuing to try to figure out our team this year, which has nothing to do with last year.”
Four players scored in double figures for the Gamecocks, led by Chris Silva who had 15 points and seven rebounds. Matt Willms had a team-high 18 points for UTEP (1-2), but the Miners committed 23 turnovers and were outrebounded 36-27.
“I’m disappointed with our play,” Floyd said. “They just paralyzed us with their defensive pressure. In the first half we’d either turn it over or have a quick-launch bad shot. And then we couldn’t get back on defense. They were just clearly a better team than we were today.”