GREENVILLE, S.C. — When Sindarius Thornwell was asked what he knew about Marquette on Sunday night, he quickly said, “Nothing.” Thornwell and his South Carolina basketball teammates know more now.
Thornwell said Thursday that he knows the Golden Eagles pretty well and, as expected, went straight into talking about the way they shoot the basketball.
“They are tough because they all shoot it from all spots,” Thornwell said. “They drive the ball, too. What makes it really hard is they have multiple scorers. There is not one guy that is their leading scorer all year. They have multiple guys. They don’t depend on one guy.”
Marquette comes into Friday night’s 9:50 ET tip-off in the first round of the NCAA Tournament as the nation’s leading 3-point shooting team, hitting at a 43 percent clip and averaging more than 10 made 3-pointers per game.
Markus Howard leads the Golden Eagles, knocking down an absurd 54.9 percent of his 3-point attempts and scoring 13.2 points per game. But he hardly is the lone weapon for Marquette, which boasts five players averaging double-digits.
“They are amazing,” sophomore guard PJ Dozier said. “They are pretty good. Watching film, they have multiple guards that can hit shots. Guarding the 3-point line is going to be big for us.”
The Gamecocks have the No. 5 3-point defense in the nation, holding opponents to 29 percent from behind the arc. It’s a fitting matchup in that sense, pitting an elite shooting team against an elite defensive team.
Thornwell reminded folks of that Thursday, praising Duane Notice for starting the on-ball defense, which then trickles down to Thornwell and Dozier to deny passes and work off ball screens.
Coach Frank Martin said the challenge Marquette provides in passing and shooting is as good as any team the Gamecocks have played this season. But if South Carolina can rediscover the defense it played through early February, it will provide a stiff test for the Golden Eagles as well.
“I thought our 3-point defense was still pretty good,” Martin said. “It’s got to be the best it’s been all year. It’s our ball screen defense has to be tremendous. And then our perimeter defense has to be the best it’s been all year.”
The Gamecocks know it now and understand the test in front of them.
“They are a really good offensive team,” guard Justin McKie said. “Shoot the ball really well. They get out in transition and shoot well. We have to try our best to limit their 3-point opportunities and get them off the line.”