For the first time since 2008, South Carolina (13-19, 5-13 SEC) left its first game with a win at the SEC Tournament tonight as freshman guard Duane Notice exploded for a career-high 23 points to lead the Gamecocks past Auburn (14-16, 6-12 SEC), 74-56, in the tournament’s opening game at the Georgia Dome.
Also in double figures for Carolina was senior guard Brenton Williams with 16, Laimonas Chatkevicius with 11 to go with nine rebounds, and freshman guard Sindarius Thornwell who added 10. The Tigers were led by Chris Denson and KT Harrell who totaled 14 and 13 points, respectively.
Auburn pulled out to an early 11-7 lead after a deep 3-pointer from Harrell at the 13:43 mark. The Gamecocks came back though and scored the next five points after a dunk from Chatkevicius just over two minutes later, followed by an open 3 from Notice.
With the shot clock expiring, Notice hit another 3 with 9:36 on the clock to regain a one-point lead after an Auburn 3 from Dion Wade.With 7:45 left in the half Notice hit his third from beyond the arc to give the Gamecocks a 21-16 lead and pass his previous career high from outside.
Holding a 25-21 lead with 5:05 left in the half, Williams took over, hitting one three after another. The senior scored 14 points, with four 3s in the final minutes as the Gamecocks took a 38-26 lead into the half.
The hot start from the beyond the arc continued for the Gamecocks as they opened with a pair of 3s from Carrera and Thornwell, pushing the lead to 44-26 just over two minutes into the half. After a six-plus minute drought from the field, with fouls and free throw attempts ending any flow to the game, Notice ended the stretch for the Gamecocks with a three-point play 10:50 remaining to maintain a 57-40 lead.
A 3 from Auburn’s Tahj Shamsid-Deen brought the Tigers’ deficit to 14, but that was as close as Auburn would get. The Gamecocks would extend the lead to 21 with 4:36 to go after a free throw from sophomore forward Michael Carrera, before ending the contest with an 18-point victory. It was Carolina’s second consecutive win away from home after ending the season with a win at Mississippi State.
Notice’s 4-of-4 from 3 helped South Carolina shoot a season-high 73.3 percent (11-of-15) as the Tigers shot only 33.3 percent (5-of-15) from the beyond the arc. The Gamecocks also controlled the boards, out-rebounding Auburn 39-25.
Sophomore forward Mindaugas Kacinas led the Gamecocks on the glass with 10 rebounds, but right behind him was Chatkevicius with nine and Notice eight.
The win moves Carolina into a second round matchup with Arkansas, with the game set to tip-off 25 minutes after the conclusion of the day’s first contest, which begins at 1 p.m. ET.