Midway through his freshman season, Duane Notice is finally breaking out.
Notice scored a season-high 15 points as South Carolina defeated Akron 69-59 in the third-place game of the Diamond Head Classic on Wednesday.
"Coach just challenged me and the first thing he did, the first practice when we came out to Hawaii, was he challenged me in front of everybody and that burnt a fire under me," Notice said. "It got me into my competitive mode to show him that I'm not a phony so I think that's what lifted my play this tournament."
Sindarius Thornwell, Brenton Williams scored 12 points apiece and Michael Carrera, Tyrone Johnson each added 10 points off the bench for South Carolina (4-6).
Demetrius Treadwell scored 12 points and Quincy Diggs had 10 for Akron (6-4). The Zips held a 31-25 lead at the break, but were outscored 12-5 in the first 5 minutes after halftime.
The Gamecocks took over midway through the second half. Notice's basket started a 14-3 run as South Carolina rallied to take a 53-45 lead with 7:20 remaining.
Notice's play was crucial in helping the Gamecocks put away the Zips.
A 3-pointer by Jake Kretzer and a three-point play by Treadwell helped Akron close to 59-56 with 4 minutes remaining. But Notice scored on the next play and then his steal and layup put the Gamecocks ahead 63-56 with 3:19 left. South Carolina then stole the ball on consecutive Akron possessions to seal the win.
Notice, who entered the tournament averaging just four points per game, had three-straight double-digit scoring performances in the tournament. He scored 11 in Sunday's win over Saint Mary's and had 13 in Monday's loss to Boise State. Both were his season highs at the time.
"I'm real proud of him because he was great the first three weeks of practice and then, like most freshmen, he went through a little funk and wasn't practicing well, wasn't playing well, but he stayed the course and he's feeling good about himself right now," said South Carolina coach Frank Martin. "He deserves the success he's having as a player because we've challenged him and we're so young. It's not like he's got too many guys in the locker room who can help him grow up. He's got to figure it out on the run here."
Notice was 7 of 12 from the field as the Gamecocks shot 41.7 percent for the game and made 81 percent of their 21 free throw attempts. South Carolina held the Zips to 22-of-58 shooting, including 5 of 17 from 3-point range.
"I just thought our effort wasn't any good," said Akron coach Keith Dambrot. "We just died physically again, quit guarding and that led to the issues. We let offense dictate defense again. We've just got character issues that we haven't been able to overcome when things go badly for us."
The teams will face each other again at 4 p.m. Saturday in South Carolina.
"Now what we'll do is watch film, like I'm sure Keith (Dambrot) will on the way home to prepare for our practice and see how they tried to guard certain things and what kind of stuff they tried to run against us so we can try and adjust to what they might do," Martin said.
Treadwell 4-9 4-5 12, Evans 2-7 1-2 5, Harney 4-10 1-3 9, McAdams 1-3 2-3 4, Forsythe 2-3 0-1 4, Ibitayo 1-3 0-0 3, Betancourt 0-2 0-0 0, Diggs 3-9 2-5 10, Kretzer 2-5 0-0 6, Johnson 3-7 0-0 6. Totals 22-58 10-19 59.
SOUTH CAROLINA (4-6)
Thornwell 4-11 4-5 12, Williams 3-8 4-4 12, Notice 7-12 1-2 15, Henry 0-1 0-0 0, Kacinas 2-3 0-0 4, Johnson 2-8 6-6 10, Shaw 0-0 0-0 0, Chatkevicius 1-3 0-0 2, Carrera 5-8 0-0 10, Ringer 1-5 2-4 4, Steele 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-60 17-21 69.
Halftime_Akron 31-25. 3-Point Goals_Akron 5-17 (Diggs 2-5, Kretzer 2-5, Ibitayo 1-2, Betancourt 0-1, McAdams 0-2, Evans 0-2), South Carolina 2-9 (Williams 2-4, Carrera 0-1, Steele 0-1, Notice 0-1, Thornwell 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_Akron 35 (Treadwell 7), South Carolina 38 (Carrera, Johnson, Notice, Ringer 5). Assists_Akron 10 (Diggs 4), South Carolina 12 (Johnson 5). Total Fouls_Akron 19, South Carolina 21.