USC opened the season with an 85-76 victory over Louisiana Tech Friday night. Four Gamecock starters were in double-figures, led by senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, who poured in 18 points. The Lancaster native filled up the stat sheet leading the team in rebounds (7) and assists (6).
Senior guard Duane Notice (17), sophomore guard PJ Dozier (17) and sophomore forward Chris Silva (11) were the other South Carolina starters in double figures. Dozier’s 17 points were a new career-high.
The Gamecocks jumped out to a 7-2 lead to start the game behind five points from Dozier. The Gamecocks extended their lead to 16-6 after Thornwell hit a 3-pointer with 12:49 left in the first half.
South Carolina’s half court defense was suffocating in the first 10 minutes, as they held the Bulldogs to 29 percent shooting from the field. Louisiana Tech finished half one 11-of-29 from the field (37.9 percent).
The Bulldogs closed the gap to 18-16 with 10:24 left, but Carolina pushed the lead back to nine at 36-27 with 2:36 to play in the half after back-to-back 3s from senior guard Justin McKie and sophomore guard Hassani Gravett.
Gravett ended the first half with an exclamation point as he tipped in a Notice 3-point miss at the buzzer. Carolina led 42-31 at the break as the, Villa Rica, Ga. native’s, tip-in gave the team its biggest lead of the first half at 11.
Thornwell led all scorers at halftime with nine points on 4-of-8 shooting. He also had five rebounds and three assists. Junior forward Ran Tut had a nice first half off the bench, dropping four points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with five. Notice had eight points, Dozier seven and Gravett seven to round out Carolina’s scoring in the opening period. Carolina out-rebounded La Tech 22-18 in half one.
In the second half, the Bulldogs cut the deficit to seven with 14:13 left after a 3-pointer by sophomore guard Derric Jean from the right wing. La Tech’s Jacobi Boykins stole the ball at half court finishing with an emphatic dunk at the other end to cut the lead to 59-54. He was whistled for a technical foul after the play. Notice missed both free throws but Silvia put the Gamecocks back up by seven after a dunk on the ensuing possession off a great dish from Gravett.
La Tech’s Daquan Bracy would cut the lead to four at 65-61, knocking down a 3-pointer with 7:58 left. Thornwell would answer the basket with a fast break 3 of his own from the left corner to put Carolina back up seven with 5:56 on the clock. The Bulldogs answered, but Silva increased the lead to nine with a 3-point play with 4:31 left after beating Jean to the hole for the and-one bucket.
Thornwell and Silva again halted La Tech’s momentum after bringing Colonial Life Arena to its feet with two straight transition dunks, pushing the lead to 80-70 with 2:37 left, and the Gamecocks would close the nine-point win.