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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — Before the game, Coker coach Dan Schmotzer gave South Carolina coach Frank Martin a Christmas present.
It wasn't because the two had a long history together. It was because of the opportunity Martin allowed the Division II Cobras in playing in a big-time atmosphere that they typically don't get to experience.
"I've more respect than ever for Frank Martin and the Gamecocks," Schmotzer said. "That man is genuine. He doesn't know what he's done for our school at Coker College. To be able to schedule during this part of season means so much to our school. I can't thank him enough for allowing us to do that."
The gesture was nice but the Gamecocks didn't take it lightly on Coker. Duane Notice scored 19 points to lead four players in double figures, propelling South Carolina to a 78-52 victory Sunday.
"The one thing we didn't do today was let our defense suffer," Martin said. "I thought our defense maintained some of the things we need to do to be successful. Eventually we played better offense and were able to create some separation."
The Gamecocks didn't get off to the start Martin was hoping for after the 23-point win over Clemson less than 48 hours earlier. Coker scored the first five points of the game and held its final lead at 8-7 seven minutes into the contest. The Gamecocks had eight turnovers in the first six and half minutes to contribute to the slow start.
But South Carolina went the final 13:20 of the first half without a turnover. The lead was just 24-21 with a little less than four minutes remaining in the half but the Gamecocks closed on an 11-2 run to stretch the lead to 12 points, 35-23, the largest cushion of the half.
The post duo of Laimonas Chatkevicius and Demetrius Henry dominated in the paint. The each scored 16 points and helped South Carolina to a 50-20 advantage on points in the paint.
"That is our plan every game, to start inside-out," said Henry, who set a new career-high. "We were able to get the ball around the basket today and finish so we stuck with it."
South Carolina opened the second half on a 9-3 spurt and cruised the rest of the way. The lead was never less than 11 points in the final 20 minutes and reached as many as 27 points.
Johnson added 12 points for the Gamecocks. It was the fifth consecutive win for South Carolina as they improved to 7-3.
Errick Bethel led Coker (3-5) with 14 points and Jordan Scott added 12 points.
"I was thinking of auditioning it off to raise money for cancer, but I don't think anybody would pay for this thing. I'm hope our people didn't pay for it." — South Carolina coach Frank Martin on the special Gamecocks Christmas sweaters the coaching staff wore for the final game before the Christmas break.
Coker: The Cobras have lost four games in a row after winning four of five to start the season. ... This was the first-ever meeting between Coker and South Carolina.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have won five games in a row for the first time since December-early January of the 2012-13 season, Martin's first season. ... Notice has scored 85 points his last four games after having just 47 points the first six games of the season.
Coker is at UNC Pembroke on Wednesday, December 31.
South Carolina hosts North Carolina A&T on Tuesday, December 30.
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