DON’T SNOOZE ON SOUTH CAROLINA …
“You snooze, you lose.”
Except when it comes to March Madness, apparently.
A well-rested Sindarius Thornwell scored twenty-four points and grabbed six rebounds as the University of South Carolina men’s basketball team pummeled No. 3 seed Baylor 70-50 for its first-ever trip to the NCAA Tournament’s “Elite Eight.”
The key to Thornwell’s success?
“I got my nap,” he told TBS’ Allie LaForce.
Thornwell’s “Z’s” aside, nobody is snoozing on seventh-seeded South Carolina … not anymore. The Gamecocks (25-10) hadn’t won an NCAA tournament game in 44 years heading into this year’s “Big Dance.” Now they’ve won three in a row – including an upset victory over second-seeded Duke and a Sweet Sixteen thrashing of Baylor, which sustained its worst-ever NCAA defeat at the hands of South Carolina’s tenacious defense.
“We have been real good defensively all year, we were on point definitely today,” head coach Frank Martin told reporters after the game.
Indeed … South Carolina’s dismantling of Baylor, which was ranked No. 1 in the country earlier this year, included holding the Bears to just thirty percent shooting from the floor. Head coach Scott Drew‘s team was held to 22 points on 25 percent shooting during the first half – both of which were season lows.
“We couldn’t, really couldn’t buy a basket,” Baylor forward Johnathon Motley told reporters.
That ELITE feeling! pic.twitter.com/ylLR199cPA
— Gamecock Men's Basketball (@GamecockMBB) March 25, 2017
In addition to his 24 points and six boards, Thornwell – the reigning Southeastern Conference (SEC) player of the year – had a pair of assists, two blocks and two steals for the Gamecocks, who have come alive after limping into the postseason with a 3-6 record.
South Carolina has now won 25 games in back-to-back seasons – tying the school record for wins in a season.
They can break that mark with a victory on Sunday against SEC East rival Florida – which advanced to the Elite Eight in thrilling style with an overtime buzzer beater over Wisconsin. SEC champion Kentucky is also still alive in the tournament, advancing to the Elite Eight in the South Regional with an 86-75 victory over UCLA.
The fourth-seeded Gators (27-8) defeated Wisconsin 84-83 in overtime on a last-second three-pointer from junior guard Chris Chiozza.
South Carolina and Florida have faced each other twice already this season, with the Gamecocks earning a 57-53 win in Columbia, S.C. on January 18 and the Gators getting their revenge with an 81-66 victory in Gainesville on February 24.
Sunday’s showdown is scheduled for 2:20 p.m. EDT at Madison Square Garden in New York City. CBS will televise the game nationally.
This is Martin’s second trip to the Elite Eight. He led Kansas State there in 2010 – with the Wildcats losing to Butler by a score of 63-56.
After posting an anemic 28-38 mark during his first two seasons in Columbia, S.C. (including a catastrophic 9-27 conference mark), Martin’s third squad went 17-16. Last year’s squad made a real breakthrough – but it wasn’t quite enough to break into the NCAA tournament.
This year South Carolina is not only dancing … they are one win away from the school’s first-ever appearance in a Final Four.
Banner via @GamecockMBB