NEW YORK — South Carolina basketball got used to the feeling of a home-court advantage in NCAA Tournament games last weekend in Greenville.
Things didn’t change a whole lot with the site moving to New York on Friday for the regional round, as the Gamecocks once again were playing in front a loud, garnet-clad crowd at Madison Square Garden.
“It feels great,” guard PJ Dozier said. “Even at the hotel earlier today, seeing all the fans that came out to support, it’s really a blessing. We can’t thank them enough for the support that they have given us throughout the year. That really has gotten us here.”
That certainly was the case in the first two games of the NCAA Tournament for the Gamecocks, as they enjoyed the privilege of playing less than 100 miles from Columbia. Fans packed Bon Secours Wellness Arena, pumping in the noise and getting behind the Gamecocks well.
Really, the presence just carried over from what has been a steadily increasing fan base in recent years. Martin pointed out Friday, as he has many times before, that South Carolina was 13th in attendance nationally this season.
“Our fans are just ridiculous,” coach Frank Martin said. “They are awesome. I’m just happy that the country gets to see how great Gamecock fans are, not just in football, but for everyone else. I’m ecstatic. Understand, we got kinda shut out of tickets down in Greenville last week. Our fans learned really fast. They figured out a way to get into this building.
“They were phenomenal. I’m so ecstatic. I’ve gotta think it’s gotta be even more, from what I’m understanding, coming in here Sunday.”
Martin noted that the support from Gamecock fans ranges from soccer games to women’s basketball to volleyball, praising the love that fans have for South Carolina.
And now as the Gamecocks advance to the Elite 8 against Florida on Sunday, Martin and the Gamecocks are looking forward to hopefully having a home-court feel once again.
“Our fans are taking this ride with us and, eventually, we’re either going to party together or we’re going to cry together,” Martin said. “It’s one or the other. There’s not another alternative there. But that’s the way it needs to be. We — in fact, I want fans to cry when I cry. I want them to be mad when I go home mad. That’s the only way you know that you got something going on.”