GREENVILLE, S.C. — South Carolina basketball had a night 44 years in the making on Friday in Greenville.
Not since 1973 had a Gamecocks basketball team won a game in the NCAA Tournament. No more.
South Carolina beat Marquette, advancing to the second round of the tournament in a 93-73 win in front of a loudly pro-Gamecock crowd at Bon Secours Wellness Arena. The Gamecocks will face No. 2-seeded Duke on Sunday with a game time to be announced later.
And it was truly something magical for the Gamecocks with countless moments of unadulterated joy on the court in the final 10 minutes. The most marvelous came from Sindarius Thornwell – as it had to – as the SEC player of the year had a sequence that ought long be remembered in Columbia.
The senior pulled up, hit a midrange jumper to extend South Carolina’s lead to 84-69, bouncing his way back down the court with a smile. Then he blocked a shot, grabbed the ball and raced down the court, hanging in the air through contact and making the layup for a three-point play.
Thornwell played like he has throughout the season, scoring a game-high 29 points with moments of willing the team to more and more in the second half.
The Gamecocks got a ferocious effort from sophomore guard PJ Dozier, who flew around the offensive end of the court and had 21 points.
South Carolina picked up its defensive intensity in the second half, stifling a Marquette with an effort led by senior guard Duane Notice. Notice forced a game-changing over and back early in the second half, leading straight to a Thornwell 3-pointer as part of a 13-0 run that completely changed the game.
On the other end of the court, the Gamecocks played quickly and aggressively, scoring with ease and in a variety of ways. USC got in transition, with a huge edge in fastbreak points.
The Gamecocks never led in the first half, falling behind early behind a barrage of 3-pointers from an elite shooting Marquette team. But USC constantly pushed back, getting within two points twice and ending the half trailing by only one.
South Carolina scored first in the second half, then it never stopped. The Gamecocks had multiple runs of 10-0 or greater as it advanced to play a second game in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 44 years.
Player of the game
The senior was incredible, scoring 29 points and playing like this game meant the entire world to him.
South Carolina took its first lead on the first bucket of the second half, but the 13-0 run changed the course of the game for the Gamecocks.
What’s next for South Carolina basketball
South Carolina will face No. 2 seed Duke on Sunday.