South Carolina’s Historic Tournament Run

Chris Silva and Rakym Felder celebrating with Coach Frank Martin after their 88-81 win over Duke

Chris Silva and Rakym Felder celebrating with Coach Frank Martin after their 88-81 win over Duke

Conor Coleman, Sports Section Editor

South Carolina fans were extremely relieved after receiving a bid to the Big Dance. South Carolina’s bid to the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament was their first time making it to the tournament since 2004 when they were and quick out, losing to Memphis by 16 points. After being hired 5 years ago, Frank Martin made it his mission to get the Gamecocks back to the tournament, and win their first game since 1973. Coach Martin had a message for long-suffering fans: It won’t take the Gamecocks 44 years to win another NCAA Tournament game.

This year, South Carolina received a 7 seed from the tournament committee and would face Marquette in Greenville, SC for the first round. Many experts predicted 10 seed Marquette to upset South Carolina due to their up-tempo offense and range from outside the 3 point line. Even though South Carolina has a solid defense, Marquette’s offense looked like too much for the Gamecocks to handle.

At the beginning of the game, it was back and forth between the Gamecocks and the Golden Eagles. As the game progressed, Marquette began pulling ahead and Gamecocks fans everywhere began to get nervous. However, a late push in the first half resulted in South Carolina only being down by 1 at halftime. The second half began similar to the first, a back and forth battle, however with a few minutes left in the 2nd half, South Carolina fans could almost taste a win. It seemed as if South Carolina couldn’t miss a shot as the end of the game approached. The South Carolina Gamecocks ended up beating the Marquette Golden Eagles by a score of 93-73. Sindarius Thornwell carried the team on his back and scored 29 points while also pulling down 11 rebounds. Frank Martin fulfilled his promise of winning an NCAA tournament game, but was not content with just one win.

Next, the Gamecocks would have to face the 2 seed Duke Blue Devils in the round of 32. Duke, coming off a fresh ACC tournament win looked like one of the hottest teams in the country. 12% of brackets submitted into the ESPN Bracket Challenge had Duke winning the entire tournament while 87% selected them to advance to the Sweet Sixteen. South Carolina fans were happy with one win in the tournament, but not many expected to win a second game.

The stadium filled with garnet and blue… as well as baby blue. North Carolina fans that had stayed from the previous UNC versus Arkansas game. The remaining Tar Heel fans would play to South Carolina’s favor as the game progressed. At halftime, Duke was ahead of South Carolina by a score of 30-23. South Carolina did well at limiting Duke’s Luke Kennard to 0 points from the field, but could not put up points against a great Duke team. It seemed as if South Carolina’s run in the tournament was over, but Frank Martin had faith in his team. The Gamecocks came out firing in the second half. With improved defensive play and exceptional offensive scoring, South Carolina began to erase Duke’s lead and even pull ahead. After several clutch free throws, South Carolina beat Duke by a final score of 88-81. South Carolina had a second half for the ages scoring 65 points. South Carolina scored less than 65 points in 10 games during the season, let alone all in one half! The Gamecock’s 65 points ┬áis the most ever scored in one half against Coach Kryzewski. After the game, Coach K said that South Carolina’s defense was the toughest they faced all year and that the Gamecocks were also one of the most physical teams he had played this year.

Sindarius Thornwell had 24 points in the win over Duke. Duane Notice and Chris Silva both had 17 points, while Silva also had 10 rebounds. Freshman Rakym Felder was extremely clutch off the bench when star guard P.J. Dozier fouled out of the game. Felder scored 15 points with a memorable three-pointer from just outside the March Madness Logo.

South Carolina will play 3 seed Baylor University on Friday, March 24 at 7:29 pm in Brooklyn, New York (Madison Square Garden) in the Sweet Sixteen. It will be interesting to see how South Carolina’s defense will prepare to handle a very athletic Baylor team and how many fans will take the trip to New York to continue watching South Carolina’s historic run.