Nov. 24, 2015
ST. THOMAS, USVI — The South Carolina men’s basketball team will be coming home with a new addition to the trophy case Tuesday, after winning the 2015 Paradise Jam in convincing fashion Monday with a 83-75 win over Tulsa (4-1). Five Gamecocks would reach double figures, and a fast start would play a big role in moving the team’s record now to 5-0. Sindarius Thornwell was named the tournament’s MVP, and Mindaugas Kacinas would join him as an All-Tournament honoree.
The offense showed no hangover from a semifinal game the night before that featured 178 combined points. The Gamecocks started the game out on a 12-2 run in the first three minutes of play, punctuated by a 3 from Sindarius Thornwell. Tulsa cut the lead to 12-8, but Carolina went off again with another 17-4 run from there to go up 29-12 through the first 12 minutes of the game. The fast start was thanks in part to an 11-of-16 start from the field for Carolina, including all four 3-point attempts.
A veteran Tulsa team would not panic, though, and were able to chip away and got the deficit back down to single digits by the halftime break, 38-29. The Gamecock defense forced eight turnovers in the period and held the Golden Hurricanes to 31 percent from the field (9-of-29). Mindaugas Kacinas and Michael Carrera each had six points and five rebounds, Laimonas Chatkevicius led the team with nine points.
The Gamecocks hit their first four shots coming out of the halftime break and extended the lead back up to 14, 48-34, just three minutes into the half. Tulsa came back strong with a 14-4 run in less than four minutes to set a more tense tone that would carry through the remainder of the game. Tulsa’s Shaquille Harrison was the comeback catalyst, scoring 15 of his team-high 20 points in the second half, and the Hurricanes would keep hanging around down the final ten minutes of action. Carolina was able to push the lead back up to ten on three different occasions, but could never pull away like it had in the first half.
After a pair of free throws from Chatkevicius pushed the lead up to 76-66 with three minutes to go, Tulsa would make its final push. James Woodard converted a three-point play with 2:30 to go to make it 76-69, then hit a pair of free throws with 34 seconds to bring it to five, 80-75. That would ultimately be the Hurricane’s final points, as the Gamecocks made 3-of-4 free throws after Tulsa fouls to stop the clock, leading to the 83-75 final.
In the final five minutes of the game, the Gamecocks converted 9-of-10 from the free throw line, including four from Laimonas Chatkevicius. The accuracy would keep Tulsa from earning extra possessions from fouling, and helped keep it at least a two-possession game at all times.
With both teams posting similar stats almost across the board, the difference-maker would be Carolina shooting 50 percent from 3-point range. The Gamecocks used a 4-of-4 start from deep to earn the lead early on and never looked back. Tulsa would go just 1-of-7 in the first half from 3 and finished the game at 31 percent.
South Carolina returns home to host Lipscomb on Friday at 2 p.m. ET. That game will be broadcast on SEC Network+. It will be the first meeting between the two schools.
- The 5-0 start is the team’s best since 2003-04. That group would start the season 8-0 and make the NCAA tournament.
- This is the second tournament crown under Martin, also won the 2012 Hoops For Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.
- Did not trail at all in the game, and only trailed for 36 seconds total for the three-game tournament.
- The Gamecocks have now scored at least 83 points in four of the first five games of the season. Last year, it took until the 28th game of the season (Feb. 28) to reach four 80-point games.
- Thornwell averaged 13.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists over the course of the week to earn MVP honors. Kacinas averaged 17.3 points and six rebounds per game.
TWEET OF THE GAME
@GamecockMBB has me believing. Greatly improved. Fun to watch. Play their tails off. Ready for a big season. #Gamecocks
— Wright Culpepper (@wrightculpepper) November 24, 2015