COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina has beaten two major conference teams in a row by at least 23 points. That the latest win was over bitter rival Clemson just makes it so much better for the Gamecocks.
Duane Notice scored 19 points as South Carolina (6-3) clamped down on the Tigers in a 68-45 win Friday night.
The Gamecocks had 13 days off for exams since the last time out, a 75-49 victory over Oklahoma State. They didn’t look rusty at all in this one.
After making just 1-of-9 3-pointers in the first half, South Carolina made 6 of its first 11 shots behind the arc in the second half and held Clemson (6-4) scoreless for over six minutes.
”I hope it gives our guys confidence because we’re doing it against really good teams,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
It was Martin’s first win over the Gamecocks’ in-state rival in three tries and just the third win for South Carolina over Clemson in the past 11 games. The 23-point margin was South Carolina’s biggest win in the rivalry since beating Clemson 81-53 in 1971.
The Tigers scored just 15 second half points as they lost to a Southeastern Conference team for the first time in four games this season.
Clemson shot just 29.8 percent (17-of-57) for the game as the Gamecocks held a third straight team under 30-percent shooting from the field.
South Carolina led 20-9 with just under nine minutes to go in the first half before Clemson was able to start grinding the ball. The Tigers ended the half on a 21-8 run after the Gamecocks stopped pounding the ball inside. During one stretch, South Carolina made just two of 10 shots, and seven of the misses were on 3-pointers.
But the momentum didn’t carry over to the second half. Laimonas Chatkevicius got a put back on a missed 3 to tie it at 30 and Notice hit a 3-pointer to get the lead back for the Gamecocks with 18:45 left. It started a 33-7 run for South Carolina.
”All the emotion just poured out because the crowd was so electric and we just kept out foot on their throat,” Notice said.
Tyrone Johnson had a career-best nine assists and Chatkevicius scored 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.
”Everybody kept asking, `when are you going to beat them (Clemson)? Are you going to beat them?”’ Chatkevicius said. ”It felt great to beat them.”
Jaron Blossomgame led Clemson with 14 points and Damarcus Harrison scored 10 points.
Clemson was just 5-of-28 from the field in the second half.
”When you don’t score like we didn’t score, it puts a lot of pressure on your defense,” Tigers coach Brad Brownell said.
BROWNELL’S BIG LOSSES
The 23-point defeat was the second biggest loss in Brownell’s five seasons with Clemson. The biggest loss was 78-41 in February 2013 to Virginia. But the next biggest defeats are to a pair of in-state rivals – 23 to South Carolina on Friday and 23 at Coastal Carolina in December 2012.
Brownell has lost seven times in 25 games against teams in South Carolina while at Clemson, and only three of those losses have been to the Gamecocks. Brownell has lost twice to Coastal Carolina and once to the College of Charleston and Winthrop.
Martin was asked what happened in the South Carolina locker room after Clemson ended the first half on a 21-8 run, turning an 11-point Gamecocks lead into a 30-28 deficit.
”We pulled out a birthday cake, cut it up, clapped and high-fived each other,” Martin said to laughter. ”No, I’ve got the Christmas spirit going right now. It has been a long two-and-a-half years. Our guys are playing well. I’m kind of in the moment right now.”
Clemson: Friday’s game was the first this season on an opponent’s court for the Tigers. … Clemson coach Brad Brownell is 2-3 against South Carolina. … Clemson’s previous biggest loss this season was by five points.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks now lead the series 89-76 … Junior forward Michael Carrera played for the first time in three games since suffering a concussion in late November. He had six points and six rebounds in 10 minutes.
Clemson hosts Oakland on Monday.
South Carolina hosts Coker on Sunday.