Irish eyes indeed are smiling, and on St. Patrick’s Day noless. Frank Martin Friday night joined the old Irishman himself, Frank McGuire, as USC’s only men’s basketball coaches to win a NCAA Tournament game, the victories coming 44 years apart. And for his efforts, Martin gets to face one of McGuire’s long time nemeses from his North and South Carolina days, the Duke Blue Devils.
The Gamecocks, in the words of Sindarius Thornwell, played their best game of the season in the 93-73 win over Marquette to reach the second round in Greenville. The will meet the Blue Devils Sunday night at around 8:40 PM on TNT. Duke, the region’s second seed, knocked off Troy 87-65.
After a slow start, the Gamecocks settled in on both sides of the court. Defensively, they held Marquette to just three second half three pointers after yielding eight in the first half. The Gamecocks also forced 12 second half turnovers and 18 for the game which they converted to 25 points.
Offensively, USC settled for the three early in the game and Martin was fine with that because he felt most were good shots. But as the game wore on, the Gamecocks started attacking the basket, especially PJ Dozier who made eight of his nine field goals inside the line including two thunderous dunks. Forty-two of USC’s points were scored in the paint.
And then there was Sindarius Thornwell, who not only played like the SEC Player of the Year, he played like a first team All American stuffing his stat line with 29 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 2 blocks and 2 assists. And his defense also was rock solid.
Dozier complemented Thornwell with 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals. Duane Notice and Chris Silva also reached double figures with 10 points each.
Now that the Gamecocks have ended the 44 year old run of tournament futility, they will attempt to make program history on Sunday. No Gamecock men’s team has won back to back NCAA Tournament games and made it to the second weekend. All they have to do is take down one of college basketball’s blue bloods and it’s hall of fame coach.
USC locker room interviews: