South Carolina pulled off a shocker Sunday night, advancing to the NCAA tournament’s Sweet 16 by upsetting Duke, 88-81.
The Gamecocks won this game more than Duke lost it. I was really impressed with the way South Carolina played at such a high level for almost the entire second half, and Gamecocks guard Sindarius Thornwell (24 points) was better than any of the all-stars that Duke had on the floor. USC shot an extraordinary 71.4 percent in the second half – 20 for 28 from the field – after shooting only 20 percent in the first.
“That's why they call it March Madness!” said USC coach Frank Martin, who after the game went into the stands to conduct a Jim Valvano-style hugfest with various supporters. The “huggees” included former Gamecock football star Jadeveon Clowney.
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In front of a gleefully anti-Duke crowd that was packed with fans of both South Carolina and North Carolina – the Tar Heels had played and nearly lost to Arkansas a couple of hours earlier – the seventh-seeded Gamecocks made just enough free throws at the end to stave off a possible comeback by No. 2 Duke. The game was played in Greenville because the NCAA had pulled it from Greensboro, N.C., as part of the fallout from HB2, which meant that the Gamecocks had what amounted to a home-game atmosphere.
That's the toughest defense we have played all year. ... They played better.
After the game, USC players screamed and exulted as Duke's players walked silently off the floor. The ACC tournament champions had been beaten in the NCAA tournament's first weekend. Many Duke players cried in the team locker room afterward.
Said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski: “At the end of the season I want my guys to either be crying because we've lost or crying because we've just won. And it shows that if you're not doing one of those, that means you never really became a team.”
Duke's loss put the capstone on what has been a very bad tournament for the ACC.
Duke's loss put the capstone on what has been a very bad tournament for the ACC. Of its nine NCAA tournament teams – the most in conference history – eight have been eliminated (including another No. 2 seed, Louisville, earlier on Sunday). Only the Tar Heels remain in the field, and they came very close to losing to Arkansas earlier in the day.
“They played a heck of a game,” Krzyzewski said of the Gamecocks, who scored 65 of their 88 points in the second half. “That's the toughest defense we have played all year. ... They played better.”
SOUTH CAROLINA 88, DUKE 81
SOUTH CAROLINA (24-10): Kotsar 0-3 0-0 0, Silva 6-12 5-5 17, Notice 6-8 3-3 17, Thornwell 6-14 9-12 24, Dozier 5-12 1-1 11, Keita 0-2 0-1 0, Felder 2-5 9-10 15, Gravett 0-3 0-0 0, McKie 2-4 0-0 4. Totals 27-63 27-32 88.
DUKE (28-9): Tatum 6-12 1-2 15, Jefferson 4-7 6-7 14, Jackson 4-9 5-5 15, Jones 2-6 0-0 6, Kennard 1-6 8-8 11, DeLaurier 0-0 0-0 0, Giles 0-0 0-0 0, Vrankovic 0-0 0-0 0, Allen 5-13 7-7 20. Totals 22-53 27-29 81.
Halftime—Duke 30-23. 3-Point Goals—South Carolina 7-22 (Thornwell 3-6, Notice 2-4, Felder 2-4, Gravett 0-2, McKie 0-2, Dozier 0-4), Duke 10-27 (Allen 3-10, Tatum 2-4, Jones 2-4, Jackson 2-5, Kennard 1-4). Fouled Out—Tatum, Jones, Kennard, Kotsar, Dozier. Rebounds—South Carolina 33 (Silva 10), Duke 31 (Jefferson 15). Assists—South Carolina 16 (Thornwell 5), Duke 11 (Jones 4). Total Fouls—South Carolina 22, Duke 26.