South Carolina beat FIU 70-54 to stay undefeated this season. Playing without leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice tied his career-high with 27 points.
About an hour before tipoff, South Carolina announced that Sindarius Thornwell had been suspended indefinitely for a violation of athletics department policy. Players found out Saturday afternoon that Thornwell would be suspended for the game. After the game, Frank Martin said he would walk out of the press conference if he were asked any questions about the suspension.
Meanwhile on the other side of the ball, FIU's leading scorer Donte McGill also missed the game. McGill is averaging 19.1 points per game this season, meaning the game was played with almost 40 points per game missing. The lack of firepower was frequently evident. Both teams shot 41 percent from the floor. For South Carolina it was its second lowest shooting percentage of the season behind only the fatigue-addled game against Monmouth. FIU also committed a season-high 23 turnovers.
With Thornwell out, the onus to replace his scoring fell to his backcourt mates Notice and PJ Dozier. After scoring 17 points in the season opener, Notice has had a quiet season, averaging only 9.3 points per game. But Notice was on point Sunday. He scored the first three points of the game as the Gamecocks sprinted out to a 7-0 lead.
A quick timeout settled the Panthers down and they trailed just 19-14 with eight minutes left in the half. The Gamecocks used another quick 7-0 spurt to gain some separation. Dozier got a steal near midcourt and made a layup, and then added a pair of free throws. Notice capped things with a three. Now down 26-14, the Panthers called another timeout. The stoppage ended the run, but the Gamecocks still took their largest lead in to halftime, up 36-22.
Neither team was very efficient offensively in the second half, but without McGill, FIU lacked the firepower to stay with Notice and Dozier. Notice not only tied his career best in scoring, but made a career-high six threes. Notice was happy to have a breakout game, but said there was no added pressure to produce with Thornwell out.
"The system that we play in gives an equal opportunity for everyone to provide and contribute," Notice said. "It felt good confidence-wise. I've been struggling shooting the ball since the beginning of the season. Kudos to these guys for getting me the ball in the right spot."
"Duane's played so hard for us the first month of the season," Martin said, "but the ball hasn't been going in the net for him."
The South Carolina defense and rebounding was subpar without Thornwell, but still made enough plays. FIU actually outrebounded South Carolina 35-34, the first time this season South Carolina has been outrebounded. South Carolina allowed an opponent to shoot over 40 percent for only the second time this season. But it also had a season-high 13 steals and forced a season-high 23 turnovers. South Carolina was able to tie its season-high with 24 points off turnovers.
"We were active with our hands when they tried to drive into crowded areas," Martin said. "PJ and Duane have gotten so much better guarding on the ball."
Senior guard Justin McKie started in place of Thornwell. It was the first start of McKie's career. ... Sedee Keita scored a career-high six points. All of his career points have come in the last two games (he had four against Vermont). ... Maik Kotsar's streak of double figure scoring games came to an end, but he had a strong all-around game. Kotsar grabbed six rebounds and had career-highs of three assists and four steals. ... Chris Silva struggled offensively, going 2-10 from the floor, but had a career-high five blocks. ... South Carolina is off this week for exams. Its next game is December 12 versus Seton Hall.