COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) South Carolina beat South Florida 81-63 on Saturday, posting a 19-0 run in the game's first three minutes and fighting off a second-half comeback.
The Bulls had a 17-2 run in the first 10 minutes of the second half but South Carolina still led by 25 points, down from 36 with 17:45 to play. As turnovers mounted and the Gamecocks began to miss, USF began working inside and scoring on high-percentage shots.
The deficit was cut to 13 but the Gamecocks found a response. When Chris Silva dunked over Jaleel Cousins, the threat was over.
''We talked at halftime about playing the game the right way in the second half,'' South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ''We did the complete opposite.''
''I told them I didn't care about the score,'' USF's Orlando Antigua said. ''I cared about the effort and our competitive spirit. That allowed us to continue to battle and fight and make the game a little respectable.''
The Gamecocks (8-0) matched their best start since 2003-04, the last time they advanced to the NCAA Tournament. USC hasn't been 9-0 since 1970-71, when it won its only ACC championship. USF fell to 2-7.
Sindarius Thornwell scored the Gamecocks' first five points and fueled their run after the Bulls made it 5-2 on a Jahmal McMurray jumper. South Carolina could hardly miss from the field while South Florida missed 10 straight shots.
''They threw a haymaker, punched us right in the mouth,'' Antigua said. ''We tucked our chin in and were looking for Mommy.''
By the time Roddy Peters finally broke the run with a jumper, the Gamecocks led 24-4. South Carolina led 53-22 at halftime.
The Bulls were helped in their comeback by controlling the glass. USF had 20 offensive rebounds while the Gamecocks had six.
''Us guards didn't help the bigs at all tonight,'' Thornwell said. ''We got to do a better job of getting in there and rebounding.''
South Carolina center Laimonas Chatkevicius had drawn Martin's praise for a red-hot start, but had his second straight poor game. Chatkevicius scored four points with five boards.
''If our centers aren't going to help us, then I've got to play my smaller guys,'' Martin said.
South Carolina was outrebounded 46-32, with Cousins grabbing 13 and Ruben Guerrero notching 10. The Gamecocks had nobody with more than seven rebounds.
Michael Carrera led the Gamecocks with 19 points while Thornwell (15), P.J. Dozier (12) and Duane Notice (15) joined him in double figures.
Cousins and Nehemias Morillo had 13 points each for USF.
The game was a matchup between the only two Hispanic-American head coaches in Division I college basketball. That was a big reason why Martin and Antigua scheduled the game, and ESPN's Pedro Gomez was on hand to interview each coach
Each hopes that any other minority coaches or players realize that they can achieve their dreams.
''Both Frank and I have been benefactors of a lot of sacrifice from a lot of different people,'' Antigua said. ''We want to demonstrate and show that we're capable of being an example to younger coaches, younger kids.''
South Carolina: Martin was a JV assistant to Sergio Rouco at Miami Senior High School in 1985. Rouco is now a USF assistant. ... South Carolina is the only Division I school in the country with unbeaten men's and women's teams. The No. 2 Gamecocks women's team hosts No. 14 Duke on Sunday.
South Florida: The Bulls' early foibles gave South Carolina 27 points off turnovers and 23 from fast breaks.
South Florida hosts NC State on Dec. 13.
South Carolina hosts Drexel on Dec. 15.