2017 East Regional: A Thorn Well Placed

 

NEW YORK, NY – As the first game of the East Region Sweet 16 tipped off, fans from both South Carolina and Baylor filed in the stadium. A pro South Carolina crowd was on full display early on as every rebound from the Gamcocks was capped by a thunderous roar throughout the arena.

As both teams looked to get the jitters out, the Gamecocks were flying around early making Baylor uncomfortable. Both teams however found their footing around the 10 minute mark, as they played even. The rebound margin at the 8:25 mark was all even at 12, however points off turnovers is what kept Baylor afloat. The 8 to zero margin in the points off turners allowed the game to be 15 all with 8:25 left in the first half.

A made three courtesy of  Duane Notice put the Gamecocks up 3 at the under 8 media timeout. The Gamecocks came out of the media time out and fed off their crowd, going on a 16-0 run to lead 29-15 with 3:23 left in the first half. The defense of the Gamecocks was stifling, as the Baylor Bears couldn’t get anything going, settling largely for jump shots as opposed to shots at the rim.

An extended run brought the half time score to 37 South Carolina, 22 Baylor in a defensive first half. The Gamecocks shot 48 percent in the first half, compared to a dismal 25 percent for the Bears. Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 10 points in the first half.

With 14:26 left in the second half, it was all Gamecocks. Nursing a 21-point cushion they did not let up defensively. The Baylor offense was in shambles as they turned the ball over three times in 1:47. Baylor began to show life with 11:30 left, as Manu Lecomte netted two threes to cut the deficit to 13. Baylor sunk two free throws to cut the deficit to 11, however the Gamecocks answered with an abrupt 6-0 run to push the score to 55-38 with 9:22 left.

Baylor received a few questionable whistles that put them in the bonus with 8:15 left in the contest. They were however still down 55-38. With 2:13 left in the contest and the Gamecocks up 22, chants of SEC rang from the stands as the Gamecocks sat comfortably in front.

The final score of the game was 70-50, as the Gamecocks advance to the Elite 8.  Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 24 points. Frank Martin and company played a stellar game centered around defense. The Gamecocks used their tenacity on defense to disrupt everything the Bears wanted to do offensively.

When asked about the defense Sindarius Thornwell stated, “I felt like we were in their heads all game, but they’re great team and we knew they were going to go on a run.” Although the Bears did go on a run, the Gamecocks answered back with timely shots to cruise to a 20 point victory and advance to the Elite 8.

A huge aspect that should be brought up is the crowd that made it feel like a home game for the Gamecocks. When asked about the pro-Carolina crowd Frank Martin said, “You guys are just starting to watch our fans. You don’t understand how good our fans are.”

That statement couldn’t be more true, as the “football school” was 13th in attendance over the course of the season. The Gamecocks will look to thrive on their fan base cheers as they are set to face the Florida Gators in a all SEC matchup for a chance to advance to the Final Four. Tip time will be at 2:20pm Eastern on Sunday.

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