By David Rogers. March 19, 2017. GREENVILLE, NC — Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell poured in 13 second half points to lead all scorers with 24 points, jumpstarting the South Carolina Gamecocks to a bracket-busting 88-81 upset of the Duke Blue Devils in front of 14,216 at the Bon Secours Wellness Arena.
COVER IMAGE: Gamecocks’ senior guard Duane Notice (10) takes aim from the charity stripe in the second half.
It may well have been one of the most physical games of this NCAA Men’s Basketball Championship Tournament regional. Although a total of 48 fouls is not unreasonably high, five players fouled out: Duke’s Jayson Tatum, Luke Kennard, and Matt Jones, as well as South Carolina’s PJ Dozier and Maik Kotsar.
With a little more than 11 minutes remaining in the first half, Duke seemed to take command with a 9-point lead and seemed to have momentum on its side, even taking a 7-point (30-23) lead into intermission. In the first two minutes of the second half, the game still seemed under the Blue Devils’ control in jumping out to a 35-25 point lead, but South Carolina’s sophomore forward Chris Silva led the Gamecocks back, including a thunderous dunk on a breakaway that gave SC its first lead after the break, 39-38.
It’s unusual for the lower-seeded team (South Carolina is a #7 while Duke is a #1) to have what amounts to a home game in the first two rounds, but North Carolina’s HB2 bathroom controversy last year prompted the NCAA to move 2017’s four teams from both the South and East brackets from Greensboro, NC to Greenville, SC.
When you consider that a good many in the crowd of 14,000 were rooting for the Gamecocks anyway, then add to that number the many North Carolina “Duke Haters” who stayed after the UNC-Arkansas curtain-raiser, the Blue Devils’ fans were noticeably outnumbered.
And the Gamecocks fed off of the positive energy. Where Duke’s players seemed rattled at times, the South Carolina contingent was invigorated.
Five South Carolina players scored in double figures: Thornwell (24), Duane Notice (17), Dozier (11), Silva (17) and Rakym Felder (15). Credit Silva with a double-double as he cleaned the boards for 10 rebounds.
If there was anything uncharacteristic of the Blue Devils, it was their 18 turnovers. South Carolina capitalized by scoring 16 points off of the Duke turnovers.
South Carolina was strong inside, with a 30-18 edge in the paint. The Gamecocks were also quick, with a decisive 12-2 showing on fast breaks.
With the win, the Gamecocks advance to the Sweet 16 for the first time since the NCAA expanded the format to include 64 teams, which was in 1965. They are scheduled to face Baylor, a #3 seed, on Friday, March 24th.