South Carolina coach Frank Martin was curious to see if the 19th-ranked Gamecocks could remain locked in and sustain their intensity against a struggling opponent in front of a meager crowd.
He liked what he saw.
PJ Dozier and Duane Notice each scored 17 points, and South Carolina dominated in a wire-to-wire win over LSU, 88-63 on Wednesday night.
“I wasn’t real comfortable with the situation that we were walking into,” Martin said, adding that he thought it was significant that his team has already matched its total of four SEC road wins last season. “League play is hard. And when you’re on the road and you can win, you celebrate. When you can win the way we did today, you’ve got to feel good about your team.”
Chris Silva tied a career high with 16 points, and Sindarius Thornwell also scored 16 for the Gamecocks (18-4, 8-1 Southeastern Conference), who are off to their best start in conference play since the 1997 squad opened its SEC schedule 11-0. The victory also lifted South Carolina into a tie with eighth-ranked Kentucky atop the league standings.
“Our coaching staff definitely harped on going into every game with the same mindset, no matter what team we’re playing,” Dozier said. “We know LSU has spectacular talent. They’ve struggled for a couple of games, but we know they’re due for a good game any day now. We just didn’t want them to have a great game against us.”
Brandon Sampson scored 16 points and Skylar Mays 11 for LSU (9-12, 1-8), which trailed by 20 in the first half en route to its eighth straight defeat — seven by 13 points or more.
“On the defensive end, we did not make it tough enough for them in the first half,” LSU coach Johnny Jones said. “We were not aggressive enough, not playing at the level or competing at the level that you need to against a team like this.”
South Carolina shot 49.2 percent while outscoring LSU 42-32 inside, and turned 22 Tigers turnovers into 34 points.
“They’re known for their defense,” Mays said. “We fell into their traps.”
South Carolina: The Gamecocks opened the game with intensity, showing no signs of playing down to the competition and doing exactly what would be expected of them against a struggling team in a largely empty stadium. Dozier (14 points), Silva (12 points) and Thornwell (11 points) all reached double figures in scoring in the first half, when South Carolina raced to a 20-point lead less than 12 minutes into the game. “Whenever we come out defensive-minded, our offense gets flowing pretty fast,” said Dozier, who made five of his first nine shots, including a 3 in the opening 20 minutes. “That’s definitely what happened for me today.”
LSU: The Tigers continue to show little sign of being competitive. Their 18-point halftime hole could have been even worse if not for a 14-point outburst by Sampson in the opening 20 minutes, including a 7-0 LSU run during which Sampson hit a 3, turned a steal into a breakaway dunk and added another layup through a crowd. “We don’t have any room to put our heads down right now,” Sampson said. “We just have to keep moving forward.”
For all their dominance, the Gamecocks spectacularly missed a pair of one-handed dunk attempts, sending long rebounds rocketing off the rim. Hassani Gravett missed on an alley-oop attempt in the first half and Silva clanked a driving dunk attempt in the second.
The lower rows of bleacher-style seating where the rowdiest students usually sit was practically empty when the game began. LSU gymnastics coach D-D Breaux changed that — for one half, at least — when she climbed into the upper reaches of the student section and persuaded several dozen students to move down behind the goal. By halftime, however, a number of them abandoned the section, if not the stadium.
South Carolina hosts Georgia on Saturday.
LSU hosts Texas A&M on Saturday night.
Thornwell is two points from tying Mike Dunleavy for sixth place on USC’s career scoring chart.
SOUTH CAROLINA (18-4): Kotsar 1-4 0-4 2, Silva 5-8 6-10 16, Thornwell 7-11 1-1 16, Dozier 6-12 4-5 17, Notice 5-9 5-5 17, Tut 2-3 0-0 4, Gueye 0-1 0-0 0, Gravett 1-5 0-0 2, Hinson 0-1 2-2 2, McKie 2-3 0-0 6, Felder 1-4 3-4 6, Blanton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 30-61 21-31 88.
LSU (9-12): Reath 2-5 0-0 4, Epps 0-1 0-0 0, Blakeney 3-12 2-3 9, Sampson 6-10 2-2 16, Patterson 2-6 2-2 6, Sims 4-8 0-0 8, Eddlestone 2-3 1-2 6, Bridgewater 1-3 0-0 2, Robinson 0-0 1-2 1, Jenkins 0-1 0-0 0, Mays 4-9 1-3 11, Hayward 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 9-14 63.
Halftime—South Carolina 50-32. 3-Point Goals—South Carolina 7-21 (McKie 2-2, Notice 2-5, Thornwell 1-2, Felder 1-4, Dozier 1-5, Hinson 0-1, Gravett 0-2), LSU 6-20 (Mays 2-3, Sampson 2-4, Eddlestone 1-1, Blakeney 1-4, Jenkins 0-1, Reath 0-1, Sims 0-1, Hayward 0-2, Patterson 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—South Carolina 34 (Silva 8), LSU 32 (Sims 11). Assists—South Carolina 10 (Dozier 4), LSU 10 (Blakeney, Patterson 3). Total Fouls—South Carolina 17, LSU 23. Technicals—LSU coach Johnny Jones. A—6,478 (13,215).