COLUMBIA -- Duane Notice didn't even wait for the custodial workers to finish. Shortly after South Carolina's seven-game winning streak came to an end, the Gamecocks guard was back on the floor at Colonial Life Arena, shooting jumpers with a rebounding machine as the building's cleanup crew swept the aisles of empty hot dog wrappers and soda cups.
For USC's leading scorer, it was that kind of week. The Florida and Ole Miss defenses which clamped down on the Gamecocks paid special attention to Notice, holding him to five and nine points, respectively, in a pair of SEC losses which are suddenly bringing back bad memories of the six-game skid the Gamecocks suffered to open league play a year ago.
Notice had scored in double figures for eight straight games, sparking USC's longest winning streak in over a decade, which peaked with a victory over then-No. 9 Iowa State that earned the Gamecocks a few votes in the following week's AP Top 25. Those heady days are gone, replaced by an 0-2 start in conference play, and a leading scorer struggling to regain his shooting touch.
"The last two games saw a lot of pressure in terms of getting me off the 3-point line and closing on me pretty hard whenever I caught the ball, making it hard for me to shoot," Notice said. "I've just got to keep my confidence up and stay in the gym and stay on top of my game in terms of game-planning and playing within the system. My shots will eventually fall, and I'll be able to thrive through the offense again."
In his past two games, Notice has shot a combined 4-of-17 from the floor and 2-of-10 from beyond the 3-point arc. This from the same player who hit five 3s in the win over Clemson, and scored 19 or more in four straight games during USC's winning streak. He said shooting in the arena immediately after the game, which he did following a 1-for-7 effort against Florida, isn't unusual.
"That game was not a one-time thing," he said. "I come to the gym to shoot at night. So it wasn't meant to be a big deal. Just right after the game, I just felt like I wanted to get a better feel for the ball."
While Gamecocks coach Frank Martin didn't particularly like Notice tweeting about it -- "Are you shooting for the fans, or are you shooting for yourself?" he asked -- he also wasn't surprised. No one on the squad, he said, has worked harder to become a better player.
"When you're a prideful player, and you feel you didn't play well, you don't need a coach to tell you to go into the gym and shoot balls," Martin said. "... That's just Duane being Duane. He cares. He's got pride. He knows he's an important player in our program, and he went out there to put in some extra work. That was not told by anyone. He did that on his own."
In the wake of the loss at Ole Miss, Notice and the Gamecocks (9-5, 0-2 SEC) used another tactic to try and turn things around - a meeting Sunday involving players and coaches. Martin said both defeats ultimately stemmed from two poor practice days prior to the Florida game, and the meeting was "to make sure there were no negative vibes in the room," center Demetrius Henry said. "Everybody spoke their mind. Everybody got everything cleared. So we're good now."
It can't happen soon enough -- coming to Columbia for a 9 p.m. game Tuesday is Alabama (12-3, 2-0), winners of five straight and rolling after holding Tennessee to 38 points in its most recent outing. Martin hopes his team responds to this current two-game skid the same way it did its last one, in the Charleston Classic in November.
"We won seven in a row after that, and played real good basketball," he said. "So from a confidence standpoint, there are no issues. ... We've just got to go out and play the way we're capable of. Our mindset, we'll be fine this week. I don't know if we'll go out and win games, I'm not into predicting. But our guys will be fine. We'll go out there and play more like the team that's represented our school this year than the one last week."