Freshman Duane Notice isn't a natural point guard, but you wouldn't have known that watching him play Wednesday night.
Notice set a new career-high in scoring with a 19-point outburst in South Carolina's 80-52 rout of Texas A&M at Colonial Life Arena. The Canada native stayed in attack mode for most of his 29 minutes on the floor, adding four rebounds, three assists and a steal as he spurred the Gamecocks to their first conference victory.
"Duane was as vocal and as enthused about the last two days of practice consistently as he's been all year, and no surprise that he played with tremendous confidence today," said head coach Frank Martin. "He played like a point guard today - mentally and physically."
Martin credited Notice with responding when things weren't going South Carolina's way early in the second half. Texas A&M opened the half with a 5-0 run to trim the lead to 41-26, but Notice answered with 10 points in the next 5 minutes to push the game back out of Texas A&M's reach.
"When we were reeling a little bit there early in the second half, he said, 'You know what, I got to go make a play to help us here," Martin said. "And he did that with back-to-back three-point plays and another hard shot that should have been a three-point play to kind of create separation again."
Notice has seen his playing time increase since South Carolina's trip to Hawaii over Christmas, and especially since senior guard Bruce Ellington declared for the NFL Draft and junior guard Ty Johnson fractured his foot earlier in January. Notice is grateful for the additional minutes, but says he's still learning the position.
"The learning curve has been tremendous," Notice said. "I couldn't foresee the future, the fact that Bruce declared for the NFL and the fact that Ty got hurt, I couldn't predict that was going to happen. I just know that Bruce gives me great advice to this day. Ty gives me advice as well at the point guard spot, and I have great people around me on my team and the coaching staff that are helping me get accustomed to the position.
"Even though it's not my natural position, it's what I have to do for the team to help us win."
BIG GAME FOR BIG CHAT. Sophomore forward Laimonas Chatkevicius was instrumental in South Carolina's first SEC win of the season, out-manning the Aggies in the post to score 12 points on 5-6 shooting from the field. A diminutive Texas A&M frontcourt had no answer for the 6-foot-11, 250 pounder in the paint, something Martin had counted on when creating the gameplan.
"That's one of the things we spoke about was to throw the ball inside," Martin said." We have to attack inside. And give Laimonas credit, he made some shots for us. I told him this is, I think, the best game he's ever played wearing our uniform today, just because of that attitude he played with."
Chatkevicius had less to say about tying his season-high in scoring. The Lithuanian said he only took what the defense gave him, and that he could have done better in other stat categories.
"It wasn't that great a game because I had three rebounds," Chatkevicius said. "So I don't consider that a good game."
GARBAGE TIME STARS. The blowout allowed several seldom-used players to see the floor. Walk-on guard Austin Constable (2.0 minutes per game) played 2 minutes but didn't record any other stats. Justin McKie (3.9 minutes per game) continued to see more significant action, grabbing four rebounds and two assists in 15 minutes. Reggie Theus Jr. (3.8 minutes per game) played four minutes and scored one point at the free throw line.
Walk-on Brian Steele (7.3 minutes per game) had a comically 3-minute bad outing, accidentally kicking the ball out of bounds at one point, stepping out of bounds after one of his two rebounds (the refs didn't see or call it) at another, and air-balling (by a foot) the most open three-point attempt he'll ever see on a college floor. The garbage-time minutes did have their highlights, though, as Jaylen Shaw seem to relish going one-on-one against Texas A&M's Fabyon Harris, dropping a beautiful crossover move on the Aggie senior guard in the game's waning moments.
NOT THE BEST, BUT CLOSE. The Gamecocks led 41-21 at halftime, but didn't manage to break their season record for a halftime lead. That remains the 37-15 beating South Carolina handed Longwood in the first half of the season opener.
OUT OF THE DOGHOUSE? Sophomore forward Michael Carrera struggled to avoid Martin's scorn earlier this season, but seems to have found the light at the end of the tunnel. The Venezuela native has now started each of the last three games and has contributed toughness and rebounding to a frontcourt that has lacked both of late.
FINDING THE BASKET. The Gamecocks have now scored at least 74 points in four straight games. The 80-point outing was also South Carolina's best offensively since defeating S.C. State 82-75 on Jan. 3.
HYMAN IN THE HOUSE. Former South Carolina and current Texas A&M athletics director Eric Hyman traveled with the Aggies to the game. Hyman was seen chatting courtside before the game with USC athletics director Ray Tanner, football head coach Steve Spurrier, senior associate AD Charles Bloom and athletics department medical director Dr. Jeffery Guy. Hyman also spent time watching the game beside women's basketball head coach Dawn Staley, who he hired to South Carolina in 2008.
Team SEC, Overall
Florida 6-0, 17-2
Kentucky 5-2, 15-5
Ole Miss 5-2, 14-6
LSU 4-2, 13-6
Missouri 4-3, 16-4
Tennessee 4-3, 13-7
Georgia 4-3, 10-9
Mississippi State 3-3, 13-6
Alabama 3-3, 9-10
Texas A&M 3-4, 12-8
Vanderbilt 3-4, 11-8
Arkansas 2-5, 13-7
South Carolina 1-6, 8-12
Auburn 0-6, 8-9
Vanderbilt 59, Georgia 54
South Carolina 80, Texas A&M 52
Tennessee 86, Ole Miss 70
Alabama at Auburn, postponed.
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