South Carolina Gamecocks

South Carolina head coach Frank Martin gestures from the bench during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Vanderbilt Saturday, Jan. 9, 2016, in Columbia, S.C.  (AP Photo/Sean Rayford)
(AP Photo/Sean Rayford)

No. 22 South Carolina remains unbeaten with win over Vandy

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell had 19 points and eight rebounds and No. 22 South Carolina remained undefeated with a 69-65 victory over Vanderbilt on Saturday.

South Carolina (15-0, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) passed its first tough test of the season, taking its first lead on PJ Dozier’s floater with 10:54 left. Dozier then hit a reverse layup as the rare near sellout crowd at Colonial Life Center roared.

Dozier scored seven of his nine points over the next 5 minutes and the Gamecocks held off Vanderbilt (8-7, 0-3) with good defense. The Commodores missed 19 of their last 22 shots.

South Carolina and SMU are the only unbeaten teams left in Division I. South Carolina has only reached 15 wins in three of its past 10 seasons.

Riley Lachance and Wade Baldwin IV each had 13 points for Vanderbilt.

The Commodores built an 8-0 lead less than 2 minutes in as Luke Kornet hit back-to-back 3-pointers and Damien Jones had a putback.

The deficit was the largest South Carolina had faced all season. The Gamecocks also trailed for 19:45 of the first half, which was more time than they had been behind in any game.

But South Carolina kept it close. Five times the Gamecocks were down one and failed to take the lead.

Once South Carolina took over, though, Vanderbilt couldn’t respond. Nolan Cressler fouled out with 7:55 left and Jones got his fifth foul with 6:34 to go. Baldwin also fouled out at the end as the Commodores sent South Carolina to the line.

Free throws kept Vanderbilt in it. The Commodores made 11 foul shots during the final 14 minutes.

TIP-INS

Vanderbilt: Kornet returned to the starting lineup for the Commodores for the first time since injuring his knee in practice Dec. 8. He scored eight points. … Vanderbilt was picked to finish second in the SEC, but has started 0-3 in the league for the first time since 2013.

South Carolina: The Gamecocks’ 15-0 start is their best since the 1933-34 season. That team also shares South Carolina’s longest winning streak of 17 games with the 1969-70 team that went undefeated in the Atlantic Coast Conference before losing in the tournament. … This is only the third time in 25 SEC seasons the Gamecocks have started with two league wins.

UP NEXT

Vanderbilt hosts Auburn on Tuesday night.

South Carolina travels to Alabama on Wednesday night.

VIDEO: South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell crushes Clemson defender on dunk

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South Carolina moved to 10-0 on the season on Friday night as they were able to outlast in-state rival Clemson. Junior wing Sindarius Thornwell put down one of the better poster dunks of the early season by throwing it down on Clemson’s Landry Nnoko.

The former four-star recruit has been an important player for the Gamecocks the last three seasons as he’s averaging 11.7 points, 5.1 rebounds and 4 assists per game on the season.

 

PREGAME SHOOTAROUND: South Carolina looks to remain undefeated

South Carolina's Duane Notice, left, and Mindaugas Kacinas, of Lithuania,  right, take a selfie during the Southeastern Conference men's NCAA college basketball media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2015. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE NIGHT: Ole Miss at Memphis, 8:00 p.m.

One of the nation’s best scoring guards will be on display in this one, as senior Stefan Moody leads the Rebels up against Memphis. Moody’s averaging 24.1 points and 4.2 assists per game for Andy Kennedy’s team, and slowing him down is the primary objective of any team. Memphis will counter with a perimeter rotation led by senior Ricky Tarrant, and their top two scorers are forwards Dedric Lawson and Shaq Goodwin. Keep an eye on the free throw numbers in this one, as Memphis is one of the nation’s best when it comes to getting to the foul line (third in free throw rate).

THIS ONE’S GOOD TOO: South Carolina at Clemson, 7:00 p.m.

Despite being 9-0 on the season, Frank Martin’s Gamecocks have flown under the radar nationally to this point in the season. They boast five double-digit scorers led by senior forwards Mindaugas Kacinas (13.3 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and Laimonas Chatkevicius (13.0, 4.3), and freshman P.J. Dozier (8.1 ppg) will only get better with time. South Carolina’s gotten the job done thus far with balanced scoring an tough defense (opponents shot 39.9 percent from two), and that will need to be the case when they take on their in-state rival tonight. The Tigers are led by junior forward Jaron Blossomgame, who’s averaging 16.3 points and 6.7 rebounds per game and is shooting 57.6 percent from the field.

SIX THINGS TO WATCH FOR:

1. A game that may float under the radar tonight is Southern’s trip to Ruston to take on Louisiana Tech. Eric Konkol’s Bulldogs are looking to rebound from a 19-point loss at Ole Miss, and they’ll do so against a team that has road wins over Mississippi State, Tulane and Wyoming. The tandem of Alex Hamilton and Eric McCree has been key for Louisiana Tech thus far.

2. BYU is back in action, taking on one of the early favorites in the MAC in Central Michigan. While CMU can put the ball in the basket their issue is defense, as they’re ranked 316th nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy’s numbers. Can they slow down Kyle Collinsworth and company?

3. Oregon hosts Long Beach State, with the 49ers having already been through a rigorous non-conference schedule. While they’re still awaiting the debut of the injured Dylan Ennis, Oregon’s received steady play at the point from sophomore Casey Benson. His numbers on the season: 31 assists and just two turnovers.

4. Wake Forest faces a Coastal Carolina team that’s expected to contend in the Big South, with Cliff Ellis’ team being a balanced group offensively led by guards Elijah Wilson and Shivaughn Wiggins. The question for the Chanticleers is whether or not they have the power inside needed to deal with Demon Deacon forwards Devin Thomas and Dinos Mitoglou.

5. Grand Canyon heads west to play San Diego State, and this could be a trickier game than one would anticipate. The Antelopes are 8-2 on the season, and the addition of guard Dominic Magee (29 points against Omaha) has given them another guard capable of putting points on the board. The Aztecs will defend, but can they produce enough on the offensive end? That’s been the question all season for them.

6. 8-1 Colorado takes on Nicholls State in a game they should win comfortably. Tad Boyle’s Buffaloes have turned things around after a disappointing 2014-15 season, and while senior Josh Scott has been the mainstay George King’s been good as well. The redshirt sophomore’s averaging 15.9 points per game, shooting 51.1 percent from the field and 48.8 percent from three.

OTHER NOTABLE GAMES

  • Southern Illinois at Murray State, 8:00 p.m.
  • Texas State at Washington State, 9:00 p.m.
  • Louisiana at Pepperdine, 10:00 p.m.
  • Cal-State Fullerton at Oregon State, 11:00 p.m.

LATE NIGHT SNACKS: Monmouth picks up another quality win

Brandon Ingram
Associated Press
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GAME OF THE DAY: Wisconsin 64, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 49

Ethan Happ and Bronson Koenig scored 15 points apiece as Wisconsin beat Texas A&M-Corpus Christi 64-49. The Islanders shot 32.8 percent from the field and 4.-for-18 from three. But the drama came after the game, as head coach Bo Ryan announced that he’ll be retiring effective immediately. Associate head coach Greg Gard will take over in an interim role, essentially having four months to audition for the job full-time.

More on Ryan’s retirement can be read here.

IMPORTANT OUTCOMES

No. 7 Duke 99, Georgia Southern 65: Playing without the injured Amile Jefferson, the Blue Devils took care of business at home with Brandon Ingram leading the way. Ingram, now starting at the four with Jefferson out, tallied 26 points and 14 rebounds to lead the way for Duke. As a team the Blue Devils posted an offensive rebound percentage of 57.9 percent, converting 22 offensive boards into 27 second-chance points. Ingram was one of five Blue Devils to score in double figures, with Grayson Allen added 18 points and Derryck Thornton Jr. 15.

Monmouth 83, Georgetown 68: King Rice’s Hawks shot 10-for-20 from three and limited the Hoyas to 32.8 percent shooting as they beat another power conference opponent. Je’lon Hornbeak led five Monmouth players in double figures with 18 points, and Monmouth now has wins over UCLA, Notre Dame, USC and Georgetown with the UCLA and Georgetown wins coming on the road.

More about this game can be read here.

Oregon 78, UC Irvine 63: Elgin Cook scored 26 points as the Ducks took care of the preseason favorite to win the Big West. Cook was one of five Oregon players to score in double figures, but it was their defense that made the difference. UC Irvine committed 22 turnovers, with Oregon turning those mistakes into 28 points. Just as important for Oregon: Dwayne Benjamin and Tyler Dorsey both played. Benjamin rolled his ankle in the loss at Boise State, and a knee injury sidelined Dorsey for the last two games. Now, they wait for Dylan Ennis to get completely healthy.

STARRED

Caris LeVert, Michigan: LeVert not only surpassed the 1,000-point mark for his career but he also posted a triple-double in the Wolverines’ 77-62 win over Northern Kentucky. Thirteen points, ten rebounds and ten assists.

Brandon Ingram, Duke: Starting at the four in place of the injured Amile Jefferson, Ingram finished the 99-65 win over Georgia Southern with 26 points and 14 rebounds.

Cameron Ridley, Texas: The senior center accounted for 19 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocks in the Longhorns’ win over Appalachian State.

STRUGGLED

Bradley Hayes, Georgetown: One of the most improved players in the Big East, Hayes struggled in the Hoyas’ loss to Monmouth. He grabbed ten rebounds but scored just one point, shooting 0-for-4 from the field.

Appalachian State from two: The Mountaineers shot 12-for-20 from three in their 67-55 loss at Texas. Why’d they score just 55 points? They shot 6-for-40 inside of the arc (Texas blocked 15 shots).

THE REST OF THE TOP 25

  • Playing without Thomas Welsh (illness) and Prince Ali (bone bruise in knee), No. 22 UCLA held off Louisiana-Lafayette 89-80. Bryce Alford led the way with 27 points, six rebounds and seven assists. Shawn Long paced the visitors with 26 points and 16 boards.
  • No. 23 Cincinnati rebounded from its loss at No. 10 Xavier over the weekend by beating Norfolk State, 75-59. Farad Cobb scored 20 points and Gary Clark added 19 and seven rebounds for the Bearcats.

OTHER NOTABLE OUTCOMES

  • Ole Miss picked up a solid home win, scoring 99 points in their 19-point win over Louisiana Tech. Stefan Moody scored 29 points and Rasheed Brooks added 20 for the Rebels, who shot nearly 57 percent from the field.
  • Also of note in Michigan’s win over Northern Kentucky was the return of point guard Derrick Walton Jr. After missing the last three games with an ankle injury, Walton scored 16 points against NKU.
  • South Carolina moved to 9-0 on the season with a 79-54 win over Drexel. The Dragons trailed by four at the half, but making just one of their first 18 shots in the second half coincided with the Gamecocks taking control of the game. P.J. Dozier scored 16 points and Sindarius Thornwell 13 for South Carolina.
  • Alex Olah scored 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds and Tre Demps added 18 points as Northwestern rolled to a 78-48 win over Mississippi Valley State. The Wildcats are now 9-1 on the season.
  • Memphis survived a tough test from Southern, winning 72-67. K.J. Lawson and Trahson Burrell led a balanced offense with 16 and 15 points, respectively. Southern’s Jared Sam led all scorers with 26 points and also grabbed 12 rebounds.
  • In its first game since beating North Carolina over the weekend, Texas picked up a 12-point win over Appalachian State (67-55). Cameron Ridley finished with 19 points and 11 rebounds for the Longhorns, who blocked 15 shots as a team.
  • Tied with VCU at 27 at halftime, Georgia Tech outscored the Rams 50-37 in the second half as they won 77-64 in Atlanta. Marcus Georges-Hunt scored 20 points for the Yellow Jackets, who are now 7-2.
  • Oklahoma State beat Longwood 73-55 in a game that was delayed 43 minutes due to electrical issues at Gallagher-Iba Arena. Leyton Hammonds scored a career-high 22 points in the win.
  • Marcus Allen scored 17 points and Dorian Pickens 16 as Stanford took care of DePaul, 79-60. The Cardinal shot 10-for-19 from three and outscored the Blue Demons 19-4 from the foul line.

Four-star 2016 big man commits to South Carolina

Frank Martin
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South Carolina landed a commitment from four-star big man Sedee Keita, he announced on Twitter. The 6-foot-10 Keita is regarded as a four-star prospect and he’s a quality addition for head coach Frank Martin.

Regarded as the No. 82 overall prospect, Keita took official visits to South Carolina, Providence and Temple during the recruiting process. He becomes the first commitment for the Gamecocks in the Class of 2016.

A developing offensive player with a workable jumper, Keita is a good rebounder who can also defend a bit near the rim. Keita gives South Carolina a player who can likely give some early minutes because he’s pretty physically developed to handle the rigors of the SEC.

Playing his senior season at 22 Ft Academy in Greenville, South Carolina, Keita is staying in his adopted basketball home for another few years.

 

Coach: South Carolina finally has depth to make NCAA run

Frank Martin
Associated Press
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Fourth-year basketball coach Frank Martin believes he has finally reached a key milestone at South Carolina.

“I don’t have to play the guys I get mad at anymore,” he said. “We’ve got enough people.”

Martin said he has depth and a group of upperclassmen, including guards Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice and forwards Laimonas Chatkevicius and Michael Carrera, who can take ownership of the program and mentor young players like McDonald’s All-American P.J. Dozier.

Martin and the Gamecocks are looking to build off last year’s 17-16 mark, South Carolina’s first winning record since the 2008-09 team went 21-10.

“They’re out there teaching the freshmen. They’re out there talking. They’re out there helping the next guy,” Martin said. “They understand what they’re doing which then allows me to be more creative”

The Gamecocks could surely use some creativity. The team won just 14 games in each of Martin’s first two years, the first two seasons of his career he finished with losing records. South Carolina looked ready to make a splash last season when it entered Southeastern Conference play at 10-3 and fresh off a victory over then-No. 9 Iowa State.

But the Gamecocks lost 11 of their next 14 games and were filled with problems. Thornwell, an SEC all-freshman a year earlier, played on two bad knees and Martin suspended forwards Demetrius Henry and Shamiek Sheppard were suspended for the rest of the season for violating team rules.

The two later transferred.

Still, South Carolina rebounded to win four of its last six games (including two in the SEC tournament) to ensure a winning mark.

Martin said his newcomers, which include 6-foot-9 forwards Eric Cobb and Chris Silva, are the kind who can compete in the rugged SEC.

Thornwell had injections during the offseason to fight off tendinitis in his knees, which he played with all last year. His numbers showed that. A season after averaging 15.6 points and 4.9 rebounds against SEC opponents, Thornwell had just 10.6 points and 4.2 rebounds this past year. Even worse for the Gamecocks, Thornwell has little of the high-flying spring he showed as a freshman.

The other day, though, Thornwell dunked to the delight of himself, his teammates and coaches.

“I told him, `I hadn’t seen that since the third grade,”‘ Martin joked.

Thornwell, the 6-5 junior, hopes to show more of that this year.

“Physically, I feel good,” he said. “I can walk better, run better, cut better, move better. That was first time dunking since freshman year. It felt going being able to touch the rim again.”

Guard Duane Notice, the team’s leading scorer last year at 11.7 points a game, went through a midseason drought last year and coincided with South Carolina’s SEC struggles. Martin said Notice has worked to make sure he’s prepared for a full season.

It helps to have Dozier, the 6-5 son of former South Carolina player Perry Dozier and sister of Asia Dozier, a starter on the Gamecocks’ Final Four women’s basketball team. The newest Dozier turned down Louisville, Michigan and North Carolina to stay near home in Columbia.

Martin said Dozier has worked at the point guard spot because he thinks and plays that way.

The biggest impact for South Carolina could be along the front line.

Chatkevicius, Carrera and Mindaugas Kacinas have handled much of the work underneath the past three seasons. Martin believes Cobb and Silva will do their share, despite their youth.

“I think we have too many guys now,” Chatkevicius said. “I’m not used to that. Glad to see so many faces here.”

The depth gives Martin hope these Gamecocks can get back to the NCAA Tournament, someplace they have not been since 2004.