COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina coach Frank Martin was pleased to finally show off the Gamecocks' depth he's raved about all preseason.
Duane Notice and Sindarius Thornwell had 14 points each to lead four South Carolina players in double figures in an 84-69 victory over Norfolk State to start the season Friday night. Martin used 11 players, 10 of them scored and eight played at least 17 minutes.
''This is fun,'' Martin said.
And it's come at the right time. Martin has steadily shuffled his roster over the first three seasons, probing for the kind of size, strength and talent to compete in the Southeastern Conference. He believes things are coming together this season.
''You can make substitutions and your play does not drop off,'' said Martin, who led the Gamecocks to a 17-16 mark last season for the first winning record since 2008-09.
Notice hit three 3-pointers and helped the Gamecocks open an 18-6 lead seven minutes into the game. Thornwell scored 10 of his points in the second half to hold off the Spartans, who had cut a double-digit lead down to 63-58 with less than 10 minutes remaining.
''This early in the year, that's when you depend on experience,'' Martin said of his two juniors in Notice and Thornwell.
The Gamecocks won their 15th straight opener, not that the Spartans made it easy. After Alex Long's foul shots cut the lead to five points, Mindaugas Kacinas followed with a 3-pointer for South Carolina, which eventually stretched things to 15 points in the final minutes.
Laimonas Chatkevicius added 13 points for the Gamecocks and freshman forward Chris Silva had 12 points, nine rebounds and two blocks.
Charles Oliver led the Spartans in their opener with 21 points off five 3-pointers.
Norfolk State coach Robert Jones said his players rebounded from South Carolina's early punch. However, he thought the Gamecocks taller, stronger lineup wore down his guys.
''Eventually, South Carolina imposed their will on us in the second half,'' Jones said.
Having the 6-foot-6 freshman PJ Dozier start at point guard allowed Notice to float back to his more natural position as a shooter. Notice showed off those skills right away, hitting three 3-pointers to help the Gamecocks open an 18-6 lead seven minutes into the game.
Norfolk State settled in and found its own outside touch. Oliver had three 3-pointers as the Spartans cut a 14-point lead to 38-34 with 1:13 left in the opening half.
Jeff Short, picked as the MEAC preseason player of the year, had 16 points for Norfolk State before fouling out.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said several times his players were ''all in'' on the season. When reminded Clemson football coach Dabo Swinney uses the same catchphrase, Martin smiled and said, ''Hey, I'm not dancing.'' Swinney has a tradition of celebrating in the locker room with players after Tiger victories.
THE FUTURE IS NOW
South Carolina freshmen PJ Dozier and Chris Silva gave fans a glimpse of what may be ahead. The two combined for 19 points and hooked up on a sweet alley-oop - Silva had the rim-rattling finish - after Dozier stole the ball on the other end.
Norfolk State: The Spartans finished last year with their 17th straight season with a .500 or better record in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Norfolk State went 12-4 and finished second in the league last season.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks are 79-29 all-time in season openers. Their last loss to start a season came in 2000-01 when they fall to Tennessee Tech of the Ohio Valley Conference.
Norfolk State opens its home schedule against Washington Adventist on Tuesday night.
South Carolina hosts Oral Roberts on Monday night.