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November 3, 2013

USC Aiken Hoops Extra

Senior guard Brenton Williams didn't shoot often in South Carolina's 84-72 exhibition win over USC Aiken, but he did make one of his four field goal attempts count. The Pacers had gone on a 17-3 run to cut the Gamecocks' lead to 67-64 with under seven minutes remaining when Williams drilled home his only made shot of the game.

The senior's three-pointer extended the lead to six, gave the Gamecocks a breather after three straight minutes of miscues, and pushed USC Aiken's comeback hopes just out of reach. Head coach Frank Martin said after the game Williams was never meant to take the shot - the senior was supposed to pass the ball off - but that he couldn't complain with the result.

"It was the first time in about eight minutes that we passed the ball and tried to run offense, and he didn't make the right cut," Martin said. "He didn't make the right cut off the screen; he had two options and he chose to create a third option."

"Sometimes you run great offense and you don't score," Martin later added. "And sometimes the offense doesn't go the way you plan it and you do score, and that was one of those moments."

But Martin was grateful the senior guard took ownership of the moment and stepped in as some of the freshmen struggled to rebound from a stretch of bad play.

"Give him credit," said Martin. "We needed him to make a shot to kind of calm the waters, and he did. That's what a guy that's been around - that's the level of confidence he should be playing with."

MARTIN CONTENT. South Carolina won't have guards Bruce Ellington or Tyrone Johnson until later this season, but Martin says he likes the backcourt he has to work with right now. Brendon Williams, Jaylen Shaw and Duane Notice combined for 24 points, eight assists and two rebounds during the exhibition.

"I'm happy with our team," Martin said. "We've got guys that are multi-talented and interchangeable."

But Martin said the guards could improve from a mental standpoint. Martin said Notice, in particular, had been "out of tune" in practice until the day before the game, but that he had pulled it together in time to play well against the Pacers.

"Physically, I'm good," Martin said of his team. "Mentally is where out challenges are going to be."

CRAMPING PROBLEMS Freshman guard Duane Notice impressed in his college debut, scoring eight points and dishing six assists. But Notice played just 19 minutes and missed most of the second half with cramps.

"I thought Duane played great," Martin said. "But I just told him in the locker room, 'cramping is all on the athlete.' There's no excuse for athletes to cramp. That's your responsibility as an athlete to make sure you rest, you eat properly, that you get plenty of fluids in your system.

"I told him the reason he cramped is because he played hard," Martin said. "But he obviously didn't do some things off the court the right way."

FREE THROW PRACTICE. The two teams combined for 55 fouls and 78 free throw shots during the exhibition, with South Carolina making 34 of its 43 attempts from the line. Martin said he isn't concerned by amount of foul calls during the game and around college basketball recently, but said getting to the line is a byproduct of South Carolina's approach every game.

"Our teams traditionally - we get to the line," Martin said. "We get in the paint. It's a big part of what we do. It's always been my theory that you have to attack the paint, attack the rim."

"I thought they called it the right way," Martin said. "I've got no problem with that."

DOUBLE-DOUBLE FOR CHATKEVICIUS Sophomore forward Laimonas Chatkevicius recorded the game's only double-double, scoring 10 points and cleaning the boards for 11 rebounds.

SHAW TO THE BASKET. Freshman guard Jaylen Shaw was impressive driving the lane against USC Aiken, making deft cuts and creating open looks for himself, despite his small frame. Shaw scored six points and tallied one rebound and one assist in just 13 minutes of play.

FIRST TIME'S THE CHARM. Sunday's exhibition was the first meeting between South Carolina and USC Aiken, even though the two schools are only an hour's drive apart on I-20.

NEW FACES ABOUND. South Carolina trotted out its new-look lineup for the first time in front of fans Sunday, with a roster that features as many freshmen (seven) as it does returning letterwinners. Not yet suiting up for South Carolina were senior guard Bruce Ellington, who will join the team after football season, and junior guard Tyrone Johnson, who will be eligible to play in December following the conclusion of his first semester after transferring from Villanova last January.

TUNE-UP GAME? Not quite. USC Aiken is as good a Division-II opponent as they come. The Pacers rank No. 4 in the Division II preseason national rankings after advancing to the Elite Eight of the D-II National Championship Tournament a season ago, the deepest run in program history. Over the past six seasons, the Pacers have won a state-best 135 games, earning three Peach Belt Conference regular-season championships and two conference tournament championships during that stretch.

VETERANS VS. YOUNG GUNS. Several South Carolina players logged their first real minutes of college action Sunday, while USC Aiken's roster was loaded with experience coming in. The Pacers' roster is bolstered by 10 seniors and three sophomores who each have at least one full season in the program.

BALKMAN RETURNS. Former South Carolina forward and NBA first-round draft pick Renaldo Balkman attended the exhibition Sunday. Balkman, who played at South Carolina from 2003 to 2006 and was named the NIT Most Valuable Player his final season, says he likes the way the current team is shaping up under second-year head coach Frank Martin.

"They're playing great," Balkman said after the first half. "They're moving the ball well, executing well; they're playing great."

Balkman said he thinks highly of Martin, mentioning that he often goes to him for advice.

"He's been on a high level and he's coached a lot of guys who have moved on to the next level also, and that means a lot," Balkman said. "These guys, they look up to him and respect him."

UP NEXT. South Carolina hosts Longwood at 1 p.m. on Nov. 9 at Colonial Life Arena for the season opener.

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