COLUMBIA — Duane Notice had a career-high 19 points, fellow freshman Sindarius Thornwell added 19, and South Carolina ended its 0-6 Southeastern Conference start with an 80-52 victory over Texas A&M on Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks (8-12, 1-6) had matched a program worst league start and were in danger of tagging head coach Frank Martin with the longest losing streak of his college career. But South Carolina jumped on the Aggies (12-8, 3-4) early and gradually pulled away for their first victory since Jan. 3.
Notice has been pressed into the primary point guard role because of junior Tyrone Johnson’s foot surgery and senior Bruce Ellington’s decision to give up his senior seasons in football and basketball – he was the Gamecocks top receiver this season – for the NFL.
Brenton Williams added 18 points for the Gamecocks.
Jamal Jones and Shawn Smith led Texas A&M with nine points apiece.
Texas A&M has lost four straight since defeating South Carolina 75-67 on Jan. 15.
Williams, South Carolina’s lone senior, hit four 3-pointers.
The Gamecocks came into this one struggling at nearly all aspects of the game. They were last in SEC rebounding and near the bottom in league offense and defense. They had tied the school worst with an 0-6 start and the six-game losing streak matched the longest ever in Frank Martin’s seven seasons as a head coach.
South Carolina put its problems aside early on, scoring the first eight points and never letting the Aggies get back in it.
Williams’ first 3-poniter six minutes in pushed the lead to double digits, 15-5.
Consecutive 3s by Antwan Space and Jordan Green helped Texas A&M get within 17-11 two minutes later. That’s when the Gamecocks took off on 21-6 run to take control.
Thornwell and Laimonas Chatkevicius had six points each in the surge while Williams added another 3-pointer. When Thornwell made two foul shots with 3:16 left, South Carolina was up 38-17.
Texas A&M started the second half with a 13-5 run to cut the Gamecocks’ 20-point halftime lead to 46-34. South Carolina answered back with a 17-4 over the next seven minutes to restore its comfortable lead.
The Aggies were cold and mistake prone in the opening half. They shot 33 percent (7 of 21) and committed 10 turnovers. They also got outmuscled under the boards by the Gamecocks, 20-11.
Texas A&M got in Tuesday before the brunt of the southern snowstorm reached the state’s capital city. The effects, though, were seen at Colonial Life Arena where there were no cheerleaders or pep band since the South Carolina campus was closed because of icy roads. The weather didn’t stop Gamecock football coach Steve Spurrier from attending. He sat for a time with Texas A&M athletic director Eric Hyman, who held the same job at South Carolina until leaving for the Aggies in the summer of 2012.