COLUMBIA, S.C. – Frank Martin focuses on training his players to get excited for every game on the schedule, but there’s no denying that the week ahead for the Gamecocks basketball team has a bit more to it.
South Carolina, which has opened SEC play 4-0, has two Top 25 matchups against Florida and Kentucky coming Wednesday and Saturday, respectively.
“Gotta get one,” senior guard Sindarius Thornwell said. “We’re trying to get both. We are not looking past Florida. Our main focus right now is Wednesday’s game. We’ve gotta get every game. It doesn’t matter who we are playing. If you win them all, you don’t have to worry about no losses.”
It’s that one-game-at-a-time mentality the No. 24 Gamecocks (14-3) are seeking to take. They’ve moved back into the Top 25 after being on the outside the past few weeks. So when No. 19 Florida comes to Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday, it will be the first Top 25 matchup at CLA since Feb. 11, 2004 when both Mississippi State and USC were ranked.
The Gamecocks, Thornwell said, are more ready for these matchups than they were a few years ago when he arrived at South Carolina. He credits that readiness to its defense, which he said always gives South Carolina a chance no matter the opponent.
“I always tell everybody give as much effort as you can,” Thornwell said. “The only thing we can really control is our effort. That’s really on defense. If we guard and do as much as we can on defense, I think that will give us a chance at the end of the game to give us a chance to be in a situation where we can win.”
Thornwell compared the week to last year’s stretch of Texas A&M, LSU and Kentucky, a stretch in which the Gamecocks went 1-2 as their late-season losses wound up being part of their downfall in not making the NCAA Tournament. There’s always an element of what a week like this means for postseason hopes, but Martin just wants his players excited for every game on the schedule.
“It’s a great opportunity for us coming in to play two Top 25 teams and two of the top teams in our conference,” Thornwell said. “We are going to give them the best shot.”