No. 24 South Carolina has gotten through its non-conference slate unscathed. The Gamecocks improved to 13-0 with an 86-76 victory over Memphis.
The Gamecocks grinded out their first victory over the Tigers since 1989. Both teams struggled to get in a rhythm from the floor, in a game where there were almost twice as many fouls called (69 team fouls) as there were field goals made (37). Despite the gritty nature of the game, the Gamecocks can proudly proclaim a perfect record.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin wasn’t thrilled by how his team played, but was certainly proud of the effort. He also compared the physicality of Saturday’s game to a boxing match.
“It’s like if you step in the ring with Mike Tyson… That’s what they do,” Martin said, according to The Post and Courier’s David Caraviello. “They’re going to come at you.”
“We weren’t great today, but we played real hard,” Martin said, according to The State’s David Cloninger.
Junior guard Sindarius Thornwell dropped 18 points on Saturday night. He said his team doesn’t pay much attention to its record when it takes the floor.
“We play every game like we’re 0-13,” Thornwell said, according to Cloninger.
South Carolina had three players score in double figures, while scoring more than half of its points from the free throw line. USC set records for free throws attempted (63) and free throws made (46), according to Cloninger.
The Gamecocks shot just 31.6 percent from the field, but pulled away thanks to stingy defense. Memphis hit only eight shots in a back-and-forth second half and went more than nine minutes without making a field goal in the midst of the second stanza.
South Carolina was also able to stay in a bit less foul trouble than Memphis, who had five players and three starters foul out of Saturday’s game. The game changed when Memphis’ best player, forward Shaq Goodwin, fouled out with 4:02 remaining. South Carolina led 71-68 when Goodwin exited the contest and staged a 15-8 run by getting inside the paint with ease.
South Carolina has clearly come a long way as a program since Martin took over in 2012. Memphis coach Josh Pastner even said he was deserving of a contract extension after the game. Martin took a moment to reflect on how far his team has come this season.
“These were the kinds of games we’d always lose,” Martin said according to Caraviello.
The Gamecocks will enter SEC play as one of the three remaining undefeated teams in the country. They’ve accomplished plenty during this incredible stretch, but the brunt of their work will begin when they travel to Auburn for their SEC opener and their second true road test.