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January 29, 2014

Gamecocks throttle Texas A&M

It didn't take hell freezing over for South Carolina to get its first SEC win of the year - just Columbia.

With snow on the ground outside and a small but vocal crowd inside the Colonial Life Arena, the Gamecocks trounced Texas A&M 80-52 in convincing fashion, leading by 21 at half and extending the lead by as many as 32 with just more than five minutes left to play.

Led by career nights from Laimonas Chatkevicius (career-high tying 12 points) and Duane Notice (career-high 19 points), the Gamecocks didn't just win, they recorded the largest margin of victory (28) in more than a decade dating back to 2002 when USC beat Tenessee by 34.

"Obviously real happy for our kids and thankful for our fans with bad conditions and the roads not being real good to come out and help us," Martin said. "They showed up. Fans make a huge impact on teams and players. Those kids coming out, when they come out and see all those students there, that makes a huge, huge difference and it continues to give our guys the resolve to compete to the utmost of our ability.

"I'm happy for our guys that we finally figured out a way to get on the right side of the scoreboard here."

After jumping out to a quick lead10-2 lead, the Aggies fought back and cut the lead to six at 21-15 with 9:13 to go before the half. Playing inspired basketball on both ends of the court, however, the Gamecocks struck back with a 17-2 run sparked by tenacious defensive play, crisp offensive execution from Brent Williams (18 points) and Sindarius Thornwell (19 points) to lead by 21 before taking a 20-point advantage into halftime.

Coming out of the break, Texas A&M charged out with a 13-5 run to get lead down to 12 at 46-34 with 16:28 to play, but led by Notice, who scored 10 of USC's first 12 points of the second half, the Gamecocks launched a 17-4 run to push the lead to 25. From there, it was all Gamecocks as the rout was on.

"We got beat by a physical and desperate basketball team," Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. "They played 40 minutes today."

For Williams, coming off a 32-point effort against Missouri in a loss, seeing four players in double figures was terrific.

"We were taking good shots instead of rushing," Williams said. "It does feel good. We knew one was coming sooner or later.

"We were happy to see the student section what it was. It means a lot to us and inspired us to do even better."

Martin said solution to the offense was simple - literally.

"What I tried to do last couple of days was go back to our roots and simplify what we were doing offensively," Martin said. "We were going into brain freeze.

"Unfortunately that's what happens with young kids. Your aggressiveness as a player can't stop, so we need to simplify things and I think it helped us. The attention to detail was greater."

"We made some shots. Guys were aggressive, and when you make shots it gives you a better feel. Guys aren't as tired when the ball is going in the basket.

"Nobody wants to be 0-and-six, but I don't coach according to our record. Rarely do I speak to our team about our rankings or standings. I speak about today. It feels good to win. As a coach, you sleep better when you win. I'm happy for our kids. They deserved to win. They went out and earned it. They stayed positive even when things haven't gone our way."

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