South Carolina earns first NCAA victory in 44 years

Courtesy: South Carolina Athletics

GREENVILLE, S.C. — It was a historic night for South Carolina men’s basketball, as the seventh-seeded Gamecocks (23-10) dominated the second half in a 93-73 win over 10th seeded Marquette (19-13) for the program’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1973. Senior Sindarius Thornwell (29) and sophomore PJ Dozier (21) combined for 51 points on 19-of-33 (58 percent) shooting.

The Golden Eagles opened up the game on an 8-0 run and led 11-5 at the first media timeout with 14:18 on the clock after a 3 by Jajuan Johnson. Marquette stayed in front by five, 19-14, at the next media stoppage with 11:58 to go. Thornwell and sophomore Chris Silva paved the way for the Gamecocks on offense early, scoring nine of the team’s first 14 points.

A 3-pointer gave the Golden Eagles their largest lead of the first half, 26-16, forcing head coach Frank Martin to take a timeout with 9:20 left. Marquette started the game 9-for-15 (60 percent) from two-point range and 5-for-8 (63 percent) from behind the arc.

Senior Duane Notice knocked down a deep 3-pointer, his second of the game, to bring Carolina within six, 28-22, at the under eight media timeout with 7:34 to go. Back-to-back dunks by Silva and Dozier brought Bon Secours Wellness Arena to its feet, pulling the Gamecocks within two, but MU pulled in front by eight, 34-26, with 5:18 to play. Carolina clawed back within four, 34-30, at the under four media timeout with 3:44 left in the half.

Dozier drove hard baseline and made a tough layup to pull the Gamecocks within two, 39-37, with just over a minute to go. Carolina got a stop and took possession with the shot clock off, but Thornwell missed from 3 with six seconds left and MU led 40-39 at halftime. Both teams shot 48 percent in the opening half as 13 different players scored on both sides.

Freshman Maik Kotsar scored the first four points of the second half to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the game, 43-40, with 18:30 remaining. The Golden Eagles answered with a 7-0 run to regain the lead, but Carolina answered with a 7-0 run of its own to retake the lead, 51-49, with 15:54 to play. It was a high-paced first 4:06 with both teams shooting it extremely well. The Gamecocks started 5-for-9 (56 percent) and MU was 4-for-6 (67 percent) to open the half.

With 14:53 on the clock, Carolina swung momentum their way after senior Justin McKie had a big steal and found Dozier ahead in transition for a breakaway dunk. The slam sent The Well into a frenzy and forced Marquette head coach Steve Wojciechowski to take a timeout, his team trailing 55-49.

Rakym Felder then gave the Gamecocks their biggest lead so far in the game, 82-69, forcing another Wojciechowski timeout with 4:40 to play.

Carolina kept its foot on the pedal as four more points from Thornwell pushed the lead to 86-69 at the final media timeout with 3:42 left in the game. The Gamecocks held MU scoreless for nearly four minutes and used a 17-2 run to take control en route to the 93-71 victory. Carolina ended the game 7-for-7 from the field.

Notice and Silva joined Thornwell and Dozier in double figures with 10 each. Kotsar and Felder each had seven for the Gamecocks, who shot a scorching 56 percent (20-of-36) in the second half. Felder and McKie combined for 12 of the team’s 14 bench points.

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