South Carolina's shooting got hotter and hotter as the game went on, and the Gamecocks knocked off unbeaten Saint Mary's on Sunday.
Tyrone Johnson scored 16 points to lead four players in double figures as South Carolina handed Saint Mary's its first loss of the season with a 78-71 win in Sunday's first round of the Diamond Head Classic.
Sindarius Thornwell scored 13 points, Laimonas Chatkevicius scored 12, and Duane Notice added 11 for the Gamecocks (3-5), who advance to face Boise State (9-2) at 9 p.m. Monday on ESPN2.
After shooting 55 percent from the field in the first half, South Carolina shot 62 percent in the second half. The Gamecocks finished 28 of 48 from the field and nine of 10 players scored in the game.
"Once we made a few shots, once we went inside and came back out, once I knew that the team needed me to make a shot, coach needed me to make a shot, tonight was a night that I delivered," Johnson said. "I was really patient tonight, I didn't try to jack up shots, I didn't try to play one-on-five. I did what coach asked us to do, which is our concepts, I was able to make some shots with my teammates' help."
Brad Waldow scored 20 points to lead the Gaels (9-1). Beau Levesque scored 15, Stephen Holt 14 and, James Walker had 13 in the loss.
South Carolina's young team didn't wallow in its mistakes like previous games this season. Instead, it maintained its defensive intensity and shooting over the course of the game.
"In the games we've lost this year, we've played hard, we've played OK, but we've had a three- or four-minute segment in each game that we hung our heads because of mistakes and the other team just takes advantage of it," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "We never hung our heads today. We made mistakes but we didn't let a bad play become two bad plays."
The Gaels, who trailed by six at halftime, rallied to tie the game three times early in the second half but could not take the lead. The Gamecocks countered every time the Gaels scored thanks to accurate shooting and production from almost everyone.
"We just had to be a little more patient in the second half, but that wasn't the problem," said Gaels coach Randy Bennett. "The problem wasn't on offense — it was a little in the first half — but the problem was defensively. They shot 58 percent (from the field) and 57 percent from 3. That's just terrible and you're not going to win doing that."
South Carolina scored six straight to extend its lead to 68-60 with five minutes remaining. The Gaels cut the deficit to 70-68 after Levesque's basket with 2:57 left, but Johnson responded with a 3-pointer for a 73-68 lead with 2:11 left. The Gaels got no closer than four points the rest of the game.
Down 75-71, Walker rushed a 3-point attempt and missed with 28 seconds remaining. After Thornwell hit two free throws, Notice intercepted a pass.
"Coming down the stretch, we buckled down defensively and came up with a couple stops when we had to have them and we had a couple chances and we executed," Martin said. "The guys who had shots made them."
The Gamecocks led by as much as 12 in the first half. The Gaels went on an 8-2 run in the final 1:33 of the first half to close to 33-27 at halftime. It was the first time the Gaels trailed at halftime this season.
SOUTH CAROLINA (3-5)
Thornwell 5-12 3-4 13, Johnson 6-9 3-4 16, Notice 4-5 2-3 11, Henry 3-5 0-0 6, Kacinas 2-3 2-3 6, Williams 2-6 2-2 8, Shaw 0-0 0-1 0, Chatkevicius 5-6 2-4 12, Carrera 1-1 1-2 3, Ringer 0-1 3-6 3. Totals 28-48 18-29 78.
SAINT MARY'S (CAL) (9-1)
Waldow 7-12 6-9 20, Giusti 1-4 1-2 4, Holt 4-9 5-6 14, Levesque 5-10 4-4 15, Walker III 4-10 2-2 13, McCoy 0-0 0-0 0, Carter 1-5 2-2 5, Jackson 0-3 0-0 0, Hodgson 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-54 20-25 71.
Halftime: South Carolina 33-27. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 4-7 (Williams 2-4, Notice 1-1, Johnson 1-1, Thornwell 0-1), Saint Mary's (Cal) 7-19 (Walker III 3-6, Levesque 1-3, Holt 1-3, Giusti 1-3, Carter 1-4). Fouled Out: Henry. Rebounds: South Carolina 32 (Henry 8), Saint Mary's (Cal) 27 (Levesque 8). Assists: South Carolina 12 (Johnson, Notice, Thornwell, Williams 3), Saint Mary's (Cal) 11 (Holt 6). Total Fouls: South Carolina 24, Saint Mary's (Cal) 20.