December 21, 2015

In his fourth season as South Carolina coach, Frank Martin has the program off to its best start in 82 years. St. John's is struggling to find some consistency under first-year coach Chris Mullin.

Back in the AP rankings for the first time since March 2004, the No. 25 Gamecocks take on the Red Storm at the Hall of Fame Shootout in Uncasville, Connecticut, on Tuesday night.

South Carolina went 45-54 in its first three seasons under Martin and hasn't reached the postseason since playing in the NIT in 2009. The Gamecocks' last NCAA Tournament appearance was in 2004.

Those droughts seem to be on their way to ending with South Carolina looking to move to 11-0 for the first time since 1933-34.

''We've got to stay in the moment,'' Martin said after Friday's 65-59 win at in-state rival Clemson.

Senior forward Michael Carrera scored 14 points and freshman guard PJ Dozier had 13 for South Carolina, which led 38-18 in the first half before being outscored 34-24 in the final 20 minutes.

''If we had to go up to St. John's after having a 20-point lead and losing, it deflates you a little bit,'' Martin said. ''It would've been harder to go up in Connecticut ... and be ready to go.''

St. John's (7-5) entered its game Friday on a three-game winning streak following an 84-72 victory over Syracuse at Madison Square Garden on Dec. 13. The Red Storm, though, lost 73-51 to a visiting Incarnate Word team that's in its third year in Division I.

They had a quick turnaround and hosted NJIT on Sunday. The Highlanders, who joined Division I in 2006, went on a 15-0 run in the second half and held on for an 83-74 win.

''Our routine is to look at the (last) game, put it behind us and try to perform better the next game,'' Mullin said. ''Ideally, there's no carryover whether it's a good or bad game. I can't say I'm concerned about (the recent struggles), but I also can't forecast it either. What we can forecast is how we prepare each and every day.''

South Carolina, one of six remaining unbeaten teams, will be the third ranked opponent for St. John's. The Red Storm lost 92-55 to then-No. 19 Vanderbilt and 83-73 to then-No. 13 Indiana on back-to-back days in late November at the Maui Invitational.

St. John's has won all four meetings in this series, with the last coming at home Nov. 29, 2012.

''We just have to play with force consistently,'' Red Storm swingman Ron Mvouika said. ''We've been having ups and down during the games and the teams we're playing are coming at us from the beginning to the end. At some point we just have to get out of that dark cloud and play more consistent from beginning to end.''

Carrera is one of five Gamecocks averaging double figures in scoring, while freshman guard Federico Mussini leads St. John's with 14.2 points per game. Mussini scored 20 on Sunday but went 6 for 18 from the field as the Red Storm shot 34.3 percent.

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