Gamecocks bounce Baylor for first-ever Elite Eight bid

uschoops-baylorThe magic continued for South Carolina (25-10) at Madison Square Garden Friday night, as it matched a school record for wins (25) in a 70-50 Sweet 16 victory over third-seeded Baylor (27-8). With the win, the Gamecocks have advanced to the program’s first Elite Eight. Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers for the third consecutive game, scoring 24 points.

Carolina led 5-2 at the first media timeout as it held the Bears to 1-for-9 shooting (11 percent) in the game’s first 4:06. After Baylor’s first bucket, the Gamecock defense held them scoreless for a stretch of 2:17 (0-for-5). South Carolina remained in front 11-8 at the under 12 media timeout with 11:58 to go.

Johnathan Motley gave Baylor the lead for the first time since the 18:11 mark. His bucket put the Bears ahead, 13-11, with 10:33 left in the opening half. Baylor head coach Scott Drew called timeout with 8:48 on the clock and the score tied 15-15. Sophomore Chris Silva led Carolina with five points to start, while Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. led all scorers with seven.

Senior Duane Notice knocked down a big 3 just before the under eight media timeout to put the Gamecocks back in front, 18-15, with 7:55 on the scoreboard. That 3 by Notice would help propel a 22-7 run by Carolina to end the first half. The Gamecocks took their first double-digit lead of the night, 25-15, after a high-arching floater in the line by Brooklyn, N.Y., native, Rakym Felder with 5:27 remaining.

A baseline jumper by Silva forced another Drew timeout, as Carolina pushed the run to 16-0, holding Baylor 0-for-9 as the Gamecocks went ahead 29-15 with 3:23 left in the game’s opening 20 minutes. Jake Lindsay snapped the field goal draught for the Bears with a long ball from the corner with 2:11 to go which cut the score to 31-18. The 3 by Lindsay was the team’s first points since the 9:58 mark, ending a 7:47 stretch with no points.

The Gamecocks impressive end to the half, fueled by spectacular defense and hot shooting, gave them a 37-22 lead at halftime. Carolina held Baylor to a season-low 25 percent shooting (8-for-32) in the opening 20 minutes. The previous low for the Bears came at the beginning of the season when they shot 39 percent (13-for-33) against Michigan State at the Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament in the Bahamas on Nov. 24. Carolina’s offense was balanced in the opening half. Thornwell led the way with 10 points, Silva had nine, sophomore PJ Dozier had eight and Notice had six. Silva had six first half rebounds to the lead the team, as the Gamecocks were plus four in rebounding margin, 22-14.

Carolina continued to roll to start the second half as Thornwell knocked down a 3 to push the lead to 20, 42-22, for the first time in the game with 18:25 remaining. Baylor started the second half 4-for-6, but the Gamecocks led by 18, 46-28, at the first media timeout with 15:45 remaining. Manu Lecomte knocked down back-to-back triples to trim the deficit to 13, 49-36, with 11:40 to play.

A 10-0 run by the Bears pulled them within 11, but consecutive 3s by Thornwell and Notice put Carolina back in control, up by 17, 55-38, with 9:22 remaining. The score remained 55-38 at the under eight media timeout with 7:44 to play. Thornwell’s 20th point and fourth 3-pointer of the game put the Gamecocks in front by 20 again, 61-41 with 5:23 to go. South Carolina held a 63-41 edge at the final media timeout with 3:58 left.

Baylor was unable to make a late run, as the Gamecocks led by 18 or more the final five minutes of the ballgame. Silva (12), Dozier (12) and Notice (11) joined Thornwell in double figures. Felder scored all nine bench points Friday night. He’s led the bench in scoring in all three of Carolina’s NCAA Tournament games.

Photo courtesy of NCAA

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