COLUMBIA, S.C. – It was ugly between South Carolina basketball and Florida on Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena. And even ugly is an understatement.
The two teams bludgeoned each other, 55 fouls were called and the teams took until the final minute to reach the 50-point mark. But then there was the play of senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who competed like a man refusing to let the opportunity pass. No. 24 South Carolina (15-3, 5-0) clinched a huge 57-53 win against No. 19 Florida (14-4, 5-1) behind the senior’s efforts and stingy second-half defense in the first meeting between Top 25 teams at CLA in more than a decade.
The senior guard, who had a game-high 20 points, drew a charge on Florida’s Canyon Barry with 1:07 to play and USC clinging to a 1-point lead. Then he hit two free throws on the ensuing South Carolina possession, pushing the lead to 54-51.
Sophomore guard P.J. Dozier finally put the nail in the coffin for South Carolina with a layup through traffic with 23 seconds to play to give the Gamecocks a 56-53 lead.
Earlier, Thornwell had a pair of tough drives, the first a three-point play as he slashed to the hoop in transition and rattled home a lefty finish. Later, he stepped up from the top of the key and splashed home the lone second-half 3-pointer for the Gamecocks.
Neither team scored by the time the first media timeout rolled around, as the teams combined to start 0 for 10 from the field and record 11 turnovers. Florida held a 4-3 lead when the second media timeout rolled around after freshman guard Rakym Felder finally got South Carolina on the board with a 3-pointer.
Thornwell did not score from the field until the 1:19 mark of the first half, scoring two straight buckets before halftime. Thornwell was 2 of 6 from the field in the first half, while Dozier was 1 for 8.
Florida dominated South Carolina inside after Chris Silva sat down with two fouls in the first 4:51, posting 24 first-half points in the paint.
Player of the game
The senior guard came up with big play time and time again in the second half with points hard to come by.
Sindarius Thornwell sighting!
— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) January 19, 2017
What’s next for South Carolina basketball
South Carolina travels to Kentucky for another Top 25-matchup at 6 p.m. Saturday in Lexington, Ky.