South Carolina improved to 12-0 on Wednesday night with a 78-56 win over Francis Marion at Colonial Life Arena. The Gamecocks remain the only undefeated team in the SEC and just one of four undefeated squads nationally.
Both teams started out rather cold from the field. This was USC's first game since Christmas and it looked like it early on. Both South Carolina and Francis Marion started 1-of-5 from the field and combined to shoot 3-of-13 early on in the first half.
The Gamecocks entered the game ranking 18th nationally in three-point percentage, a huge reason for their early success. They missed their first four attempts from deep before Duane Notice connected on a three-point attempt. USC would miss its next four three-point attempts after Notice's make. The Gamecocks went over two minutes without any points in the first half but luckily, the defense locked down Francis Marion on the other end and they were held without points during that stretch as well.
Notice went on to make two more three-pointers in the first half, finishing 3-of-4 from behind the arc in the early going. Everyone else from South Carolina was 0-of-8 from three-point range when Notice knocked down his third three-point make.
Freshman Jamall Gregory, Eric Cobb and Chris Silva carried the Gamecocks into halftime offensively, leading USC to a 38-20 advantage entering the break. Gregory threw down a monstrous dunk in transition that made Sportscenter's Top 10 plays.
Francis Marion made three of their first four shots after halftime, outscoring South Carolina early on in the second half. The Gamecocks would pull away after their depth took over against Division II FMU. Justin McKie connected from deep to put USC up 53-29. Mindaugas Kacinas, the team's leading scorer so far this season, contributed back-to-back buckets after McKie's make to further increase South Carolina's lead.
The starters, the regulars, they made their mark on Wednesday night but the game featured a fresh theme that was exciting to see. Silva led the lead with a team-high and career-high 13 points. Gregory had his highlight reel slam and a career-high six points with three rebounds and three assists. Raymond Doby scored his first career points as a Gamecock, finishing the game with eight points on the night. Walk-on John Ragin scored the game's final basket on a steal and score in the final moments.
Turnovers, rebounding and shooting were issues on Wednesday night for USC against Francis Marion. The game served as a nice tune-up to knock off some rust before the most important nonconference game in Frank Martin's tenure in Columbia - Saturday's tilt against the Memphis Tigers.
South Carolina shot 8-of-27 from behind the arc and hit just 16-of-30 free throws. The Gamecocks committed 16 turnovers and Francis Marion matched their rebounding total for much of the night. Martin has mentioned several times this season his concern with his team's rebounding, particularly on the defensive end. He's not concerned about the turnovers, but he did mention it raised his eyebrows in his post-game presser.
The Gamecocks will face the Tigers on Saturday night from Colonial Life Arena at 6:00 p.m. ET.