South Carolina wouldn’t have won a game like Saturday’s during the first three years of Frank Martin’s tenure. Now in his fourth season, Martin has his Gamecocks at 15-0 after a 69-65 victory over Vanderbilt.
Martin said the path his program has taken since 2012 has been hard to believe.
“They’ve got me on a ride right now that’s unreal,” Martin said according to The State’s David Cloninger.
A matchup with an embattled, but talented Vanderbilt team, even at home, would have been a daunting task for past SC teams. An 8-0 deficit in the first 2:17 of the game would be too deep of a hole to dig out of for former teams. Junior guard Sindarius Thornwell said as much after the game.
“It would have gotten ugly,” Thornwell said according to The Charleston Post and Courier’s David Caraviello. “8-0 would have become 16-0.”
Instead, Martin’s squad hung around with the Commodores and finally took a lead with 11 minutes left in the contest. Not only did South Carolina pull ahead, it maintained the lead and remained one of the two undefeated teams in the country.
South Carolina has arguably been the most pleasant surprise in college basketball this season, but the Gamecocks are no longer just a nice, non-conference story. Now the Gamecocks can smell their first 20-win season since the 2008-09 season and earn their first bid in the NCAA Tournament since the 2003-04 campaign.
The Gamecocks have proven they’re a legitimate contender in the SEC, and not many people would have anticipated that when Martin took the job four years ago.
Maybe even Frank Martin.
“The ride of being where we were at four years ago to where we’re at right now, is pretty special,” Martin said after the game according to Cloninger.