Gamecocks in FINAL FOUR !
South Carolina's special
March run continued on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden as the
Gamecocks (26-10) punched their ticket to the 2017 Final Four with a
77-70 win over Florida (27-9). The victory broke the single-season
program record for wins, as senior Sindarius Thornwell carried the team
with a game-high 26 points, seven rebounds and two steals in 36 minutes.
jumped out to a 6-4 lead thanks to four early points from freshman Maik
Kotsar. A 3-pointer by Kasey Hill ended a nearly three minute scoring
draught for the Gators and gave them a 7-6 lead at the first media
timeout with 15:53 on the clock.
The Gamecocks retook the lead
11-9 after starting 4-for-5 (80 percent) from the field. They remained
in front, 15-14, at the under 12 media timeout with 11:41 to go.
Carolina scored eight of its first 15 points off seven Florida
turnovers. Hot shooting was the story on both sides, as each team
started 6-for-10. There were eight lead changes in the game's first
South Carolina opened up its biggest lead of the game
18-14 with 11:24 to go in the first half and led 20-18 at the under
eight media timeout with 7:30 remaining. Chris Chiozza knocked down the
Gators' fourth-straight 3 to give them a four-point edge, 30-29 at the
final media timeout with 3:01 left to play in the first 20 minutes.
closed the half strong and took its biggest lead of the game, 38-30,
after a 6-0 run with 48 seconds left. An and-1 by sophomore PJ Dozier
on the other end pulled Carolina within five, 38-33 with 43 seconds
remaining. Two free throws by Kevarrius Hayes put the Gators ahead
40-33 at the half.
Thornwell was spectacular in the first half
for the Gamecocks, as he scored a game-high 15 points on 6-of-8 (75
percent) shooting. Dozier had a solid first 20 minutes as well, scoring
nine points. Justin Leon led the way for the Gators with 13 points as
he knocked down 3-of-5 from behind the arc. As a team, Florida shot
14-for-25 (56 percent) and 7-for-12 (58 percent) from behind the arc.
They held a 17-11 edge on the glass at the half as well.
Gamecocks surged within three, 46-43, at the first media timeout of the
second half with 15:32 on the clock thanks to a 13-6 run. Kotsar had
two buckets as Carolina started 4-for-6 (67 percent) out of the locker
room. Two Chris Silva free throws got the Gamecocks within one, 46-45,
with 14:53 to play. The foul on Silva put Carolina in the bonus the
rest of the way.
With 11:28 to go, the Gamecocks regained the
lead, 49-48, on a Kotsar tipin. It was Carolina's first lead since the
5:24 mark in half one. The Gamecocks stormed ahead holding Florida
scoreless for 3:25 and to 3-of-14 shooting to start the second half.
Florida retook the lead, 53-51, on an and-1 by Leon with 9:56 on the
clock. The basket snapped an 0-for-10 draught for the Gators.
Garden erupted as Thornwell put Carolina back in the lead 59-57 with a
tough layup, forcing head coach Mike White to take a timeout with 5:27
left to play. The teams exchanged hoops and were tied 63-63 at the
final media timeout with three minutes left to play. The Gamecocks'
second half defense was stellar, holding Florida to 8-for-27 (30
percent) and 0-for-12 from 3 to that point.
Kotsar for a transition jumper at the free throw line as Carolina used
a 6-0 run to go up four, 67-63, with 1:55 remaining in the game. A
KeVaughn Allen free throw pulled the Gators within two, 70-68, with 53
seconds left. Florida got within four twice in the final minute, but
two huge steals by Thornwell and Dozier late helped seal the historic
victory for the Gamecocks.
Dozier (17), Silva (13) and Kotsar
(12) joined Thornwell in double figures. Silva was just shy of a
double-double, finishing with nine rebounds including four on the
After trailing by seven at
halftime, South Carolina outscored Florida 44-30 in the second half.
The Gamecocks shot 52 percent (12-of-23) in the second half and held
the Gators to 31 percent (11-for-35) in the final 20 minutes, including
0-for-14 from downtown.
Carolina will be making its first ever Final Four appearance next weekend.
With the win this afternoon, Frank Martin is now 10-4 in March Madness.
Thornwell was named the 2017 NCAA East Regional All-Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
and Dozier were both named to the 2017 NCAA East Regional
All-Tournament Team, along with KeVaughn Allen (Florida), Chris Chiozza
(Florida) and Nigel Hayes (Wisconsin).
Four or more Gamecocks have scored in double figures in all four of the team's NCAA Tournament games.
Kotsar's 12 points were his most since scoring 10 in a road win at Mississippi State back on Feb. 11.
being outrebounded by six in the first half, Carolina turned the table
and outrebounded Florida by nine (23-14) in the second half to finish
plus-three in rebounding margin, 34-31.
With his first basket,
Thornwell passed former Carolina standout Devan Downey (1,901 points)
for fourth on the all-time scoring list.
Gamecocks now face No. 1 seed Gonzaga (36-1) in the national semifinals
on April 1 in Phoenix, Ariz. The Bulldogs won the NCAA West Regional
with an 83-59 victory over Xavier in San Jose, Calif. on Saturday
night. Jim Nantz (pxp), Grant Hill (color), Bill Rafferty (color) and
Tracy Wolfson will be on the call for CBS. Tip time is set for 6:09