Feb. 28, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. — Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell scored 17 of his 22 points in the second half to propel South Carolina (22-8, 12-5 SEC) to a 63-57 Senior Night victory over Mississippi State (14-15, 5-12 SEC) at Colonial Life Arena on Tuesday. The win clinched a double-bye for the Gamecocks in next week’s SEC Tournament. The team’s 12 conference wins are the second most SEC wins in program history.
Carolina led 6-5 at the first media timeout with 15:32 left in the opening half. The Gamecocks had six rebounds and four offensive boards but were unable to capitalize on their early second chances. The Gamecocks pushed in front 10-5, but the Bulldogs scored six of the next seven points to pull within one, 12-11, at the next media timeout with 11:07 on the clock. Carolina opened the game 3-for-15 (28 percent) from the floor.
Each team then made four of its next five field goals, as the Gamecocks remained in front, 21-20 with 7:30 remaining. Sophomore forward Chris Silva was dominant inside early, as he had nine points and six rebounds.
Carolina continued to lead, 26-25, at the final media timeout of the first half with 3:52 to go. The shooting woes continued for the Gamecocks, but the team made up for it at the free throw line knocking down 13 foul shots in the opening half.
Mississippi State jumped out to its biggest lead of the opening half, 29-26, after a tip-in from Eli Wright with 2:17 on the clock, but Carolina closed the half on a 7-0 run to take a 32-29 lead at the break.
Silva had 11 points and seven rebounds at halftime, both game-highs.. Mario Kegler led the Bulldogs with eight points in just nine minutes of action. The Gamecocks held a 20-16 edge on the glass, and forced 10 Mississippi State turnovers. Silva, Dozier and Thornwell combined for 16 of the team’s 20 rebounds in the first half.
Two 3s fueled a quick 6-0 run for the Bulldogs, as they pulled within four at 45-41. Mississippi State continued to chip away at the lead and got within three, 50-47, at the under eight media timeout with 7:30 on the clock. The Bulldogs took advantage of a 2:19 scoring draught and three turnovers from the Gamecocks.
Mississippi State grabbed its first lead of the second half after a 3-pointer by Tyson Carter put them ahead 52-50 with 4:33 on the clock. Thornwell knocked down a pair at the line, his eighth and ninth free throws of the game, to tie it at 52-all at the final media timeout with 3:59 remaining in the ballgame.
It was a senior-to-senior connection as Thornwell then found Duane Notice for the biggest shot of the game, as he popped to the left wing and knocked down a huge 3 to cap a 7-0 run with 2:15 remaining. The shot swung momentum back in favor of the home team as Howland took a timeout with just over two minutes to play, Carolina ahead 57-52.
The Bulldogs cut the deficit to three, 57-54, right out of the timeout, but Thornwell split the defense and connected on a tough, left handed layup to make it 59-54 on the ensuing possession with 1:35 to play. Thornwell iced the game at the free throw line with six seconds left, as Carolina prevailed 63-57.
Silva had his third career double-double (all this season) with 15 points and 11 rebounds to join Thornwell in double figures for the Gamecocks. Carolina forced 20 turnovers for the second straight game (seventh time in SEC play) and out-rebounded the Bulldogs 39-31.
The Gamecocks had another stellar second half defensively, holding Mississippi State to 9-of-30 (30 percent) shooting in the second half. In the past two games, Carolina has held its opponents to a combined 15-for-54 (28 percent) from the field in the final 20 minutes.
- Prior to tonight’s game, Thornwell, Notice and Justin McKie were honored for Senior Night at midcourt. They were joined by five student managers: Dalton Abel, Paul Dransfield, Jacob Freeze, Treis Huggins and Will Saxman.
- Thornwell went 11-for-12 at the charity stripe, snapping a streak of 33-straight made foul shots that spanned over five games. The senior has made 47-of-49 at the charity stripe the past six games.
- With the win, Carolina improved its record to 17-2 when leading at the half this season.
- The Gamecocks are 15-1 this season when holding their opponents below 39 percent shooting from the field.
South Carolina concludes the SEC regular-season on the road on Saturday, traveling to face Ole Miss at The Pavilion in Oxford. The meeting will be the second between the two schools this season. Carolina tallied a 67-56 win in Columbia on Jan. 14. Tip time vs. the Rebels is set for 8:30 p.m. ET on the SEC Network with Dave Neal (pxp) and Kyle Macy (analyst) on the call.
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