After a five-year break from the win column in the SEC Tournament, the Gamecocks took no chances of extending the streak another year.
South Carolina raced to a 38-26 halftime lead thanks to Brenton Williams' 16 first-half points, and stayed ahead by double-digits throughout the second half in large part due to Duane Notice's brilliance, and the Gamecocks eliminated the Auburn Tigers from the SEC Tournament in the first round, 74-56.
With the win, South Carolina advances to the second round of the tournament, where they'll face the fifth-seeded Arkansas Razorbacks. Arkansas beat South Carolina earlier this year in hard-fought battle out in Fayetteville, 71-64.
|Advanced Box Score|
South Carolina actually really struggled on the interior, shooting just 27% from 2 thanks to 9 blocks by Auburn (over one quarter of our 2-point attempts). But USC shot 73% from 3, and spent a ton of time on the free throw line with 30 attempts. Once they got turnovers under control - which had been a problem in the first half - those things combined with its offensive rebounding advantage were simply too much for an Auburn team that couldn't hit shots, rebound their misses, or stop turning the ball over from scoring enough to hang around with the Gamecocks.
The star of the game for Carolina was clearly Duane Notice. The freshman from Canada scored 23 points in 29 minutes on 7-16 shooting from the field, adding 8 rebounds and 3 assists against just 2 turnovers. Brenton Williams scored all 16 of his points in the first half, and while the offense never looked particularly smooth without him in the second half, Auburn could never really stop the Gamecocks - the 1.651 points on possessions that didn't end in a turnover is just too high for anyone to reasonably overcome unless you're running up a turnover percentage in excess of 30%.
For Auburn, they wilted away in the second half, never really threatening the Gamecocks. The Gamecocks held Chris Denson to 14 points (below his season average) and really caused K.T. Harrell to struggle, as he went 4-13 from the field for 13 points. Auburn relies on those two for over half their points this year, so when they only scored 27 combined points, it wasn't surprising to see the Tigers end up with under 60 points.
South Carolina's second-round game against Arkansas tips off at 3:30pm tomorrow afternoon and can be seen on SECTV.