A South Carolina sharpshooter surprisingly put Auburn on notice Tuesday night.
Senior guard Duane Notice was scorching hot and matched his career highs of 27 points and six 3-pointers as No. 23 South Carolina cruised to a 98-69 trouncing over Auburn in SEC play at Columbia, S.C.
Notice struggled most of the season and the big effort marked the ninth time he reached double digits this season. He entered the contest shooting 34 percent from the field and his slump got so deep, that coach Frank Martin fielded the following request from a team backer:
"I had a fan come up to me and ask me, 'Coach, I love the team but I'm really getting tired of watching Duane Notice miss shots,'" Martin said. "When are you going to start playing someone else?"
Good thing Martin ignored the suggestion. Notice was on the mark against Auburn by making 9 of 13 from the field, including 6 of 9 from 3-point range.
The toughest part of the night for Notice was trying to explain his up-and-down shooting performances.
"I wish I could tell you guys a formula, why I make shots and why sometimes I struggle, but I can't," Notice said. "All I can say is I continue to prepare the same way, and get extra shots up with my teammates."
Notice had plenty of company when it came to heroes as the Gamecocks (16-4, 6-1) won for the sixth time in the past seven games.
Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell contributed 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists, sophomore forward Chris Silva matched his career best of 16 points and senior guard Justin McKie scored a career-high 13. South Carolina made 15 3-point baskets, one off the school record.
Freshman forward Anfernee McLemore scored a season-best 18 points and freshman guard Jared Harper added 12 for the Tigers (13-7, 3-5). Freshman center Austin Wiley recorded 10 points and 11 rebounds and freshman guard Mustapha Heron scored 10 points.
Auburn coach Bruce Pearl couldn't hold back his disappointment after his club was steamrolled by the Gamecocks.
"It was a complete (expletive)-kicking," Pearl said on his postgame radio. "That's all it was. It just was. That's the second-best team in the league, on their home floor, and we just weren't ready."
That was on full display when South Carolina scored the first nine points and dominated most of the contest. The Gamecocks led by as many as 38 points while setting a season high for points and assists (23).
"We just weren't very well prepared," Pearl said. "We got out-coached, we got outplayed, and that's going to happen some nights. I don't think I'll get out-coached many nights, but I did tonight. They took us out of everything we wanted to do."
South Carolina held a 21-point halftime advantage and maintained a large lead for the entire second half.
The Tigers cut their deficit to 18 after a basket by Harper with 8:09 remaining. But Notice drained back-to-back 3-pointers during a 15-0 burst as the Gamecocks increased their lead to 87-54 with 5:32 to play.
The Gamecocks had 13 assists on 15 first-half baskets and hit 10 of 16 3-point attempts while rolling to a 48-27 halftime lead.
Notice connected on all five field-goal attempts -- four from 3-point range -- while scoring 15 points. Thornwell was 4-of-5 from 3-point range while contributing 12 points and seven rebounds.
Martin felt the fact that Notice's first shot slid through the nylon was a key to his big night.
"For Duane, that's usually a good sign," Martin said. "When he saw the first one go in the net, I think it just kind of made him relax a little bit."
Thornwell capped a game-opening 9-0 run with a 3-pointer but the Tigers crept back into the game and trailed 21-19 after two free throws by McLemore with 9:38 left in the half.
South Carolina responded with 10 straight points as Thornwell hit a 3-pointer and McKie knocked down two from long range. Auburn moved within 32-24 before the Gamecocks closed the half with a 16-3 surge. Thornwell and Notice each made two 3-pointers during the half-ending sequence.
-- South Carolina sophomore G PJ Dozier (back) returned after a one-game absence and scored two points in 11 minutes.
-- Auburn freshman F Danjel Purifoy was scoreless in 24 minutes and is averaging only 2.5 points over a two-game span after a three-game absence because of an ankle injury.
-- Gamecocks senior G Duane Notice scored 11 points on 4-of-17 over the previous three games before Tuesday.
-- The Tigers shot 35.6 percent from the field, including 3 of 21 from 3-point range.