The Gamecocks arrived in Huntington, West Virginia tonight ready for their first true road test of the season. Their opponent, the Marshall Thundering Herd, started the season 3-0 before dropping their last three games. South Carolina ended their own losing streak last Wednesday against UNC-Asheville and Marshall welcomed the Gamecocks Monday night hoping to do the same.
South Carolina's starting line-up was again void of junior forward Michael Carrera, who continues to sit with a concussion and a left foot injury. Laimonas Chatkevicius again took his place amongst the starters. Against UNC-Asheville, Chat and Demetrius Henry combined for 32 points in the Gamecocks' win. Tonight, the Lithuanian big man had a different partner in crime. Chatkevicius and Duane Notice combined for 26 points, scoring 13 each in the first half. Notice scored South Carolina's first seven points of the ball game, helping propel USC to a 13-3 start.
South Carolina went into halftime up 39-20, but their largest lead of the first half was 21. After shooting 7-of-24 in the first half in a loss against Cleveland State, Marshall shot 5-of-29 in the first period of play tonight. The Thundering Herd shot 1-of-14 from behind the arc and got nothing offensively from star Ryan Taylor. Taylor spent much of time first half on the bench after commiting two quick fouls. When Marshall head coach Dan D'Antoni inserted Taylor back in the game, he was ice-cold. The unusual time on the bench threw Taylor off his game causing him to go 0-of-4 for zero points in the first half. Marshall's offense was so dreadful that during a long stretch in the first half South Carolina hit only two of their last 11 shots, including six in a row, and the Gamecocks still led by a dozen.
Marshall's performance didn't get much better after halftime. After spending much of the first half on the bench, Ryan Taylor came out aggressive. But buckets were still tough to tally against South Carolina's active, long defense. The Marshall faithful actually stayed in the building and stayed loud despite the drubbing of their team. The Thundering Herd went on a little 5-0 run to bring the Gamecocks' lead down to 16. Frank Martin called a timeout and the Gamecocks walked to the bench with the Cam Henderson Center as loud as it had been all night. Out of the timeout, South Carolina outscored Marshall 11-3, quickly ending hope of a Herd comeback. Justin McKie finished with a career high nine points, Sindarius Thornwell tallied 10 points and 10 rebounds, his 3rd career double double-double but the star of the night was sophomore guard Duane Notice. The Canadian tallied his second 20-point game of his career and set a new career high with 27 points. Behind an extraordinary game from Notice and the second consecutive productive performance from Chatkevicius, South Carolina earned a 77-59 win over Marshall in their first true road game.
It was a recipe for disaster for Marshall. Their best player from last season is on Auburn's roster, their best player now struggled with foul trouble and couldn't hit anything when in the game while their second best player, Shawn Smith, missed the game due to injury. Combine that with great performances from South Carolina role players and Marshall was doomed. Give credit to South Carolina though, bad luck wasn't the only culprit of the Thundering Herd's fourth consecutive loss. South Carolina went after every 50/50 ball with reckless abandon. They really got after it on both ends of the floor and forced an undermanned Marshall team into mistakes. They simply took care of business.
The Gamecocks now return home for a showdown with the Oklahoma State Cowboys in game that's part of the SEC-Big 12 Challenge. The two teams faced off last year as part of the annual event. The 79-52 domination by the Cowboys in Stillwater was a high-octane nightmare for the Gamecocks. Oklahoma State will enter Colonial Life Arena on Saturday afternoon looking to stay undefeated while South Carolina will be amped for a possible upset.