Sindarius Thornwell and P.J. Dozier combined for 50 points, as the No. 7 seed South Carolina pulled away from No. 10 seed Marquette in the second half for a 96-76 victory on Friday night in the first round of the East Region. This was the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1973.
The Golden Eagles had a narrow 40-39 lead at halftime thanks in large part to 8-of-16 shooting from three. In matchup between a potent offense and a gritty, hard-nosed defense, the latter prevailed. The Gamecocks limited Marquette to 25 percent shooting in the second half.
Marquette’s second-half offensive woes were only compounded by its defense’s inability to find answers to stopping Thornwell (29 points) and Dozier (21). South Carolina isn’t some offensive juggernaut. The Gamecocks only put up 90 points three times this season. For perspective, the first two were against South Carolina State and a non-Division I opponent.
While South Carolina is unlikely to post 90 points on Duke in the second-round matchup on Sunday evening, its defense could pose problems against the Blue Devils.
Not only is it a physical brand of basketball played by a bunch of tough, experienced defenders, it’ll be in front of a crowd only an half and a half from the university’s campus.
South Carolina waited 44 years for another NCAA Tournament victory. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Gamecocks won’t have to wait 48 hours for their next postseason win.