Francis Marion-South Carolina Preview

The best start in more than 80 years and first national ranking since 2004 won't have any opponent trembling when South Carolina opens SEC play next week.

Even coach Frank Martin hasn't been all that impressed with the 24th-ranked Gamecocks lately.

They'll have a chance to work out the kinks when they host Division II foe Francis Marion on Wednesday night.

South Carolina (11-0) hasn't started this well since the 1933-34 team won its first 17, a feat that has it ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in 11 years in Martin's fourth season of rebuilding a program that hasn't reach the NCAA Tournament since that 2003-04 campaign.

The Gamecocks won 65-59 at Clemson on Dec. 18 before knocking off St. John's 75-61 on Dec. 22, but Martin hasn't exactly been gloating about his team's success. They'll host Memphis on Saturday before opening their SEC slate with a visit to Auburn on Tuesday.

''We are happy we are 11-0, it's better than the alternative,'' Martin said. ''But at the same time, the most important game is the next one on our schedule."

The win over the Red Storm left Martin hoping his team plugged some holes in its game over the holiday break. The Gamecocks outrebounded St. John's 43-26, but they also committed 17 turnovers.

Duane Notice finished with a season-high 20 points off the bench to lead another balanced scoring attack. South Carolina has five players averaging in double figures, none more than Michael Carrera's 12.7.

Carrera had 16 points and a season-high 12 rebounds against St. John's, which shot 44.9 percent - the second-highest mark of any Gamecocks opponent.

''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. We rebounded the ball which was good to see, but we are still turning it over too much."

South Carolina likely won't get much of a test from Francis Marion, a Division II school located roughly 85 miles east of Columbia that plays in the Peach Belt Conference.

The Patriots (7-3) haven't played since losing 81-70 at Clayton State on Dec. 19, and this contest counts as an exhibition for them. Detrek Browning, the reigning Peach Belt player of the year, is a Columbia native averaging a team-high 19.8 points.

Five players average in double figures for Francis Marion, which scores 85.2 points per game. It also plays a pressure defense and ranks among the Division II leaders with 10.2 steals per contest.

This will be the first meeting between the schools.

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