South Carolina used a big run early in the second half to pull away from Marshall as the Gamecocks cruised to a 92-65 victory.
Fouls were the story of the game. In total, 58 fouls were called - 32 on South Carolina, 26 on Marshall. Four players, two on each team, fouled out, and 71 free throws were attempted. South Carolina went 18 of 25 from the line, while Marshall shot a whopping 30 of 46.
South Carolina (6-6) felt the sting of all the fouls in the first half. Four of the five starters picked up their second foul by midway through the half and had to sit. Only Duane Notice was able to stay in the game. With the foul trouble, Frank Martin opted to stick with his bench to try to keep the game close until the second half, when the starters could go back in.
"A lot of credit, even the guys that were there at the end of the first half, because they took the lead," Martin said. "We didn't wilt. Earlier in the year we wilted. They stayed the course and at least we took the lead into the locker room."
It nearly backfired, with Marshall erasing a nine-point deficit and taking a lead late in the half. The Thundering Herd was able to take the lead because of free throw shooting. It made 14 of 20 free throws in the first half, compared to 8 of 9 for the Gamecocks. Martin stressed to his team at halftime that they had withstood Marshall's best shot and still come out ahead.
"Whether it's good, bad, or indifferent, we've got a lead," he said. "Figure out a way to win the second half. That means we win another game."
South Carolina finished the first half on a 6-0 run to take a 36-31 lead into the break. That small run set the stage for USC to take over in the second half. With the starters back in, South Carolina was able to score points again. Brenton Williams got hot, and the offense opened up for Notice, Michael Carrera and Ty Johnson.
Meanwhile, Marshall, who was playing without suspended leading scorer Elijah Pittman, went cold from the free throw line. It missed seven of its first 11 attempts of the second half, failing to match the Gamecocks' hot start. The Herd was consistently poor from the floor (under 40 percent in each half), and without free throws to pick up the slack, they could not keep pace with South Carolina.
The Gamecocks' run quickly became 14-1 and they took a 20-point lead they would hold the rest of the game. Williams, who scored the first six points of the game before foul trouble put him on the bench, attacked the rim in the second half en route to 18 points, including his school-record 42nd consecutive free throw made.
Johnson shared team-high honors with 18 points off the bench. Since Williams replaced Johnson in the starting lineup three games ago, Williams is averaging 18 points per game and Johnson is averaging 10. The Gamecocks have won all three games.
"Ty was pressing too much," Martin said. "(Not starting) lets Ty catch his breath a little bit and Ty's played real well."
The Gamecocks finished the game with 54 points in the paint. That came on the heels of 46 and 36 points in the paint in the games against Akron. Demetrius Henry is becoming more productive, but most of the scoring comes off penetration.
Marshall's leading active scorer, Kareem Canty, never got into a rhythm. He shot 2-15 from the floor and had as many turnovers as points (11). Martin was thrilled with the individual defensive effort from Notice and Johnson against Canty, but the young players are starting to understand team defense and that makes the difference compared to the beginning of the season.
"Duane's been great, but it's not just Duane," Martin said. "It's the guys off the ball not allowing the ball to get entry."
South Carolina returns to action Friday night against S. C. State. Tipoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be televised on FSN/SportSouth.
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