While there was little doubt that Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks have improved, with guards Ty Johnson, Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice leading the way, just how good they were was up for debate heading into Saturday’s game against No. 9 Iowa State in Brooklyn. The Gamecocks won six in a row prior to their matchup with the Cyclones, but outside of Oklahoma State none of those teams would be considered a serious threat to reach the NCAA tournament with one (Coker College) being a non-Division I program.
That’s what makes Saturday’s result, a 64-60 win over the Cyclones, so important for a program that was in search of a “signature win” that would serve as concrete evidence that they have improved.
Notice (six rebounds, four assists) led the way offensively for the Gamecocks with 15 points and Johnson (three assists) and Thornwell (eight rebounds) added 13 apiece, but the biggest story of the game was Iowa State’s inability to knock down perimeter shots. Entering Saturday’s game as one of the best shooting teams in the country (7th in field goal percentage), the Cyclones made just one of their 18 attempts with the lone make being provided by Naz Long with less than a minute remaining.
On the season Iowa State shot 36.5% from three and with credible threats such as Long, Bryce Dejean-Jones, and Georges Niang, when falling those shots open up everything else for the Cyclones. That didn’t happen against South Carolina, with the Gamecocks limiting the Cyclones to 46.2% shooting inside of the arc. By comparison, Iowa State entered the game shooting better than 60 percent from two.
Dustin Hogue and Jameel McKay scored 15 apiece for Iowa State, but Niang (ten points) made just three of his 13 attempts on the night. For that South Carolina deserves credit, and led by a perimeter trio that can cause problems for the opposition the Gamecocks will win games in the SEC.
Given who they’d beaten in the six games prior to Saturday’s win, it would have been tough for some to buy in and make that statement without a quality performance against Iowa State. The win gives Martin and his program added evidence that they are headed in the right direction, and Wednesday’s SEC opener against Florida represents another opportunity for the Gamecocks to make a positive statement.