UNCASVILLE, Conn. (AP) — South Carolina got off to a slow start in its first game as a ranked team since 2004.
Led by reserve Duane Notice's 20 points the 25th-ranked Gamecocks shook things up for a 75-61 victory over St. John's on Tuesday night at Mohegan Sun Arena.
The Gamecocks (11-0) are off to their best start in 80 years and entered the day as one of six remaining unbeaten Division I programs. The 1933-34 South Carolina squad started 17-0 for the best start in school history.
"We are happy we are 11-0, it's better than the alternative," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "But at the same time, the most important game is the next one on our schedule."
Notice, who was 7 for 10 from the field including 4 of 5 on 3-pointers, led a balanced attack that included 16 points from Michael Carrera, 11 from Sindarius Thornwell and 10 from Laimonas Chatkevicius
After falling behind 13-7 in the opening 6 minutes, the Gamecocks went on a 24-6 run to lead 31-19, following a 3-pointer from Carrera with 4:18 to go in the first half.
South Carolina made four 3-pointers in the run and shot 5 of 9 from beyond the arc in the half. Notice led the way with 14 points and two 3-pointers.
"When we started the game we were kind of out of character, but after the first media timeout we started playing like ourselves and slowed it down," Notice said.
In addition to hitting from the outside, the Gamecocks dominated in the paint, with a 36-20 scoring advantage, and South Carolina finished with a 43-26 edge in rebounds and scored 14 points off 14 offensive rebounds.
"We rebounded the ball which was good to see, but we are still turning it over too much," said Martin, who watched St. John's (7-6) scored 19 points off 17 turnovers by the Gamecocks.
The Red Storm closed the first half by making six straight shots from the field, including a 3-pointer from Durand Johnson with 5 seconds left that cut South Carolina's lead to 40-34. They never got closer.
St. John's tried to make a few runs in the second half, but after closing to 56-48 with 9:29 remaining, the Gamecocks broke off an 11-2 run to pull away and led by as many as 18 points in the final 6:18.
"We didn't have a few of our better practices after the Clemson game and the game before Christmas break is always difficult," Martin said. "I knew we were going to get a good shot from them."
St. John's hurt itself with poor free throw shooting, going 9 for 17 in the second half and 12 for 27 for the game. In comparison, South Carolina was 9 of 10 in the second half and 14 of 19 overall.
"We didn't play one of our better games defensively," Martin said. "We're lucky that they missed all those free throws and some open (3-pointers), or we wouldn't be sitting her with a win tonight."
Foul shooting was an issue for the Red Storm for the second straight game. They have gone a combined 30 of 61 in losses to NJIT and South Carolina.
"Those things happen," said St. John's coach Chris Mullin, who has seen his team drop three straight games for the first time this season. "You just have to keep shooting."
Johnson led St. John's with 16 points. Federico Mussini added 12 points and Christian Jones 10. The Red Storm finished 5 for 20 from 3-point range.
"It's part of the learning and building process," Mullin said. "The only way you can see the difference is to go through it. I would say the same thing for missing free throws, making turnovers. Any successful athlete will tell you, you go through that process."
TIP-INS: The Gamecocks' bench outscored St. John's 26-11. ... The last time South Carolina was ranked was March 16, 2004 when it was 23rd.
South Carolina hosts Francis Marion on Dec. 30.
St. John's hosts Creighton on Dec. 31.