Nov. 14, 2015
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COLUMBIA, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s basketball team grinded out a win in the opener to the 2015-16 season Saturday night, taking an 84-69 win over Norfolk State. It was the first game of the U.S. Virgin Islands Paradise Jam tournament, which will continue for Carolina in the Virgin Islands on Nov. 20 against DePaul. Four players scored in double figures for the Garnet and Black, with Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice leading the way with 14 points apiece.
Both teams started slow from the field, missing the first eight shots combined before PJ Dozier broke the seal with a mid-range jumper in the paint. Carolina would hit its next three shots and carried a 9-2 lead into the first media timeout.
Duane Notice came in off the bench and helped to extend the early advantage, connecting on his first three attempts from 3-point range with a four-point play mixed in for good measure. His third 3 made would bring the lead up to 16-4, as the junior tallied 12 points in his first six minutes on the court.
For as fast of a start the offense got off to, Carolina’s patented tough defense was just as good early in the game. Norfolk State would not score for the first four minutes of action, and shot just 27 percent from the field over the first ten minutes.
The Spartans were able to narrow the deficit down the stretch thanks in part to a Gamecock field goal drought, but not enough to keep the home side from taking a 40-34 lead into the halftime break.
The Gamecocks were able to hold the lead despite just three made field goals in the final 11 minutes of the half. Free throws would carry Carolina through the lull, with the team hitting 16 from the charity stripe. Norfolk was able to chip away thanks to a late burst from 3; of the team’s final five field goals made, four came from 3-point range.
The offense picked up out of the break to put Carolina back up by double digits, with Dozier and Sindarius Thornwell hitting 3s on back-to-back possessions. The Gamecocks hit 5-of-6 field goals through the opening four minutes of the second half to extend the lead to 52-41. Norfolk State would find equal success shooting the ball, however, and kept within striking distance with a 4-for-4 start on field goals.
A switch to zone by the Spartans, mixed with a full-court press, slowed the overall pace of the game down considerably, but a fast-break alley-oop from Dozier to Chris Silva woke up the crowd at Colonial Life Arena. Norfolk State continued to rely on the deep ball to cut into its deficit, making four 3s in its first eight field goals overall in the first ten minutes of the half; the fourth to make it a 61-56 game in Carolina’s favor.
Carolina held the Spartans at an arm’s length for much of the half, but were able to use a 7-0 run starting at the eight-minute mark to provide the cushion it would need to cruise to the win. The visitors, plagued by foul troubles all night, were particularly stung by the loss of guard Jeff Short, who averaged 19 points per game last season but fouled out with five minutes to play. In his absence, the visitors made just two of their final 12 attempts from the field as Carolina pulled away down the stretch.
The Gamecocks used a 7-0 run mid-way through the second half to turn a two-possession, 68-62 game into a commanding 13-point advantage. Three different players chipped in during the run.
Foul troubles for Norfolk State led to a big night at the free throw line for South Carolina. Behind a plus-16 margin in fouls, the Gamecocks made 29 free throws on the night, while the Spartans had a total of 23 attempts from the line. Chris Silva led the team with eight made free throws, Sindarius Thornwell had seven makes.
The Gamecocks have a short turnaround, as they host Oral Roberts on Monday evening. Game time for the matchup is set for 7:30 PM and will be broadcast on the SEC Network with Dave Neal (pxp) and Chris Spatola (analyst) on the call. The series between the Gamecocks and Golden Eagles is tied at one, with each team winning the meeting on its home court. Monday’s matchup marks the first since the 1988-89 campaign between the two schools.
- The Gamecocks benefitted from a deeper rotation on the post, allowing just eight field goals made from two-point range and 14 total points in the paint. Chris Silva was stellar in his collegiate debut, recording 12 points with nine rebounds and a pair of highlight-reel dunks.
- Of the team’s seven newcomers to the roster, three would see action Saturday night. PJ Dozier, Eric Cobb and Silva combined for 21 points and 14 rebounds TeMarcus Blanton, who missed all of last season with an injury, also saw his first action in a regular-season game.
- South Carolina won its 14th-straight season opener, and Frank Martin is 9-0 in season openers overall as a head coach.
- The game was head coach Frank Martin’s 100th as the leader of the program. He picked up his 46th win with the team, 163rd for his career.
QUOTABLE: HEAD COACH Frank Martin
“Well I am happy the first one is over with, I am not a fan of first games of a tournament or first games of a season. I am consumed with needing information so I can have a piece of mind and early in the year you don’t have film on guys and you don’t know about their new players. I am just never comfortable with that, but this one is out of the way. We have a real hard game Monday. I knew this was going to be hard because they have a winning fabric and with the new rules and their ability to play so many guards that can score, we have to continue to learn how to play our style of defense with those teams like we did today. That was good that we played a team that had so many guards. For the most part I was happy with how we played today.”
TWEET OF THE GAME
A lot to be excited about this year from @GamecockMBB– Excited to get a front row seat.
– Jonathan Kaufman (@UofSCSGPres) November 15, 2015