"He's got a lot of pride and he likes to win. And he is not scared to make a play. Based on the last couple days of practice, I knew he'd play a lot better today," Martin said.
Damien Leonard added 17 points and nine rebounds for South Carolina.
Auburn coach Tony Barbee said he is glad to see his team play tougher and grittier after a nonconference schedule that included losses to Rhode Island and Winthrop.
"We are still getting closer. We are still not a finished product, but we are getting closer," Barbee said.
Auburn shot 58.5 percent (24 of 41) but turned over the ball 17 times to keep South Carolina in it. Brian Greene Jr. scored 14 points, making all six of his shots, two of them behind the arc.
The referees called 47 fouls, making the game ragged at times. The Tigers were called for four fouls during a 20-second stretch early in the second half and were whistled for several illegal screens that led them to get a bit tentative running their offense.
"Whenever it gets pretty close and we have bad calls and stuff like that, we've never really fought like we did today," Chubb said.
Sullivan hit back-to-back 3-pointers after the foul-filled possession to give the Tigers their biggest lead of the game at 46-42 with 16 minutes left.
But Sullivan missed a pair of free throws the next trip down and Leonard buried a 3-pointer. The Gamecocks would eventually build a 61-57 lead on Leonard's fifth 3 of the game with eight minutes to go.
Chubb got a layup inside the next trip down, and neither team would lead by three again until Chubb's final free throw.
The normally fiery Martin, who is in his first season at South Carolina, praised his guards and had only gentle criticism for his big men. His starting frontcourt had just six of the team's 31 rebounds.