Notice’s 3s help South Carolina to 82-55 win over Tennessee

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Four losses in five games made South Carolina a lock for a first NCAA tournament bid in 13 years start to get shaky. Then an 18-point lead against Tennessee on Saturday was suddenly just four.

But that’s when senior Duane Notice took over, hitting three of his five 3-pointers in just over two minutes to lead the Gamecocks to a 82-55 win over the Volunteers (15-14, 7-9 Southeastern Conference) on Saturday.

Notice and his fellow seniors are determined to end the fifth longest NCAA tournament drought by a power conference team next month. ”We don’t want the farewell tour to end,” said Notice, who scored 15 points, all of them on 3s.

South Carolina (21-8, 11-5) led 27-9 on a 3-pointer by Notice with eight minutes left in the first half. But Tennessee chipped away and was down just 38-34 with 18 minutes left. That’s when Notice went on his 3-pointer binge, making long distance shots on three of five possessions. The Gamecocks padded their lead nearly the rest of the game.

”If I make one, I feel like I can make every 3 after that,” said Notice, who was 5 for 8 from behind the arc.

Dozier led South Carolina with 19 points, while the SEC’s leading scorer Sindarius Thornwell added 15.

Robert Hubbs III led Tennessee with 16 points.

The win stops a damaging free fall for the Gamecocks, who started February in the conversation about winning the SEC, but are only 4-4 during the month and had lost three in a row. South Carolina may only need one more win to lock in that long awaited NCAA tournament appearance.

Tennessee had been hanging out on the fringe on the NCAA tournament bubble, but losses to Vanderbilt and South Carolina likely mean the Vols need a deep SEC tournament run to make the NCAAs.

”When we had to go to our bench in the second half, we went backward every time,” Tennessee coach Rick Barnes said.

BIG PICTURE

Tennessee: The Volunteers could still tumble into the bottom four in the SEC. Tennessee was a game ahead or Auburn and Texas A&M for 11th place, which requires winning five games to win the SEC tournament. The Vols also own tiebreakers over both teams. … Tennessee was just 1 for 13 on 3-pointers. … Freshman Kwe Parker made his first start, but played just eight minutes – all in the first half, missing his only shot and turning the ball over twice.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks win was huge to stay in the hunt for one of the four double byes in the SEC tournament. South Carolina would currently be seeded fourth – a game ahead of Alabama. But the Crimson Tide own the tiebreaker thanks to their 90-84 four overtime win. … The SEC’s best defense held a team under 60 points for the first time this month. … The Gamecocks shook up their starting lineup, putting in Hassani Gravett for his first career start over Maik Kotsar.

NO NEED TO PANIC

South Carolina’s three straight losses brought back nightmares of last season when losing five of its final eight took the Gamecocks from NCAA tournament consideration to an NIT bid.

But Martin said this year’s team is different. He felt like they didn’t lose confidence in the past two losses to Vanderbilt and No. 13 Florida, and he could see in the locker room that Saturday might turn out real well.

”Everybody is taking ownership to do better, myself included,” Martin said.

TENNESSEE TURNOVERS

The Volunteers turned the ball over 20 times against the SEC’s best defense, forcing Barnes to ask his scoring guard and others to handle the ball in the second half.

”It’s not a good feeling, wondering if your point guard can get it across half court,” Barnes said.

South Carolina has forced at least 20 turnovers in six SEC games this season, including 22 in the Gamecocks 70-60 win at Tennessee in January.

UP NEXT

Tennessee: The Volunteers head to last place LSU on Wednesday.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks host Mississippi State on Tuesday.