GAMECOCK HOOPS KNOCKS OFF TOP TEN OPPONENT
|| By FITSNEWS || Six weeks ago we wrote a post entitled “Yardstick Time.” In it, we opined that the University of South Carolina men’s basketball program needed to “show some real progress” under third-year head coach Frank Martin.
Well guess what … it is.
After a rocky 2-3 start, Martin’s squad is headed into conference play on a tear. On the heels of a blowout win over arch-rival Clemson last month, the Gamecocks have now won arguably their biggest game of the Martin era – and their first win over a Top Ten opponent since beating No. 1 Kentucky five years ago.
South Carolina upended No. 9 Iowa State 64-60 on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York – upsetting a program that reached the Sweet Sixteen last year before losing to eventual national champion Connecticut.
The Gamecocks (9-3, 0-0 SEC) held the Cyclones (10-2, 0-0 Big 12) to their lowest point total in nearly a year – limiting one of the nation’s hottest shooting teams to only 25.9 percent from the floor during the second half. Iowa State also made just one of eighteen three-point field goals it attempted against South Carolina’s stingy defense.
Offensively, sophomore guard Duane Notice paced the Gamecocks with fifteen points – but it was the clutch play of slumping star Sindarius Thornwell that propelled South Carolina across the finish line against the Cyclones.
With the Gamecocks clinging to a two-point lead, Thornwell converted an old-fashioned three-point play with less than two minutes on the clock to put South Carolina up 61-56. Moments later the Lancaster, S.C. native hit another clutch layup as the shot clock was expiring – putting the Gamecocks ahead 63-57.
The exclamation point? A steal and converted free throw as Iowa State was attempting to tie the game on its next-to-last possession – icing the win for the Gamecocks.
Thornwell finished with thirteen points. He also held Cyclones’ senior guard Bryce Dejean-Jones – who entered the game averaging more than 15 points per contest – to only three points.
“He just needs the confidence to see that ball go through that basket,” Martin said after the game. “Making some of those shots down the stretch hopefully engages him offensively a little more.”
Thornwell is heating up at just the right time. South Carolina – which is riding a seven-game winning streak – opens its conference slate this Wednesday (January 7) against the Florida Gators.
And yes, it’s safe to say Martin’s program has come a long way in the ten months since the Gators’ last visit to Colonial Life Arena.