Gamecocks Second Half Comeback Falls Short In Oxford
March 4, 2017
OXFORD, Miss. — A ferocious second half rally fell just short Saturday night, as South Carolina (22-9, 12-6 SEC) was defeated 75-70 by Ole Miss (19-12, 10-8 SEC) in the team’s regular season finale. Senior Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 25 points as he filled up the stat sheet for the Gamecocks with seven rebounds and six assists.
The Rebels led 9-5 early, but Carolina went on a 5-0 run to take a 10-9 lead at the first media timeout with 13:59 to go. Ole Miss regained the lead, 13-12, at the next media timeout with 11:56 on the clock. The Gamecocks were sharing the basketball early, as five different players scored and the team logged four assists.
A quick 7-0 run by Ole Miss forced head coach Frank Martin to take a timeout with 10:02 remaining, his team trailing 20-13. Carolina responded forcing three turnovers on a 6-0 run to pull within one, 20-19, at the under eight media timeout with 7:59 to go in the opening half.
The Rebels lead grew back to seven, but a four-point swing on a technical foul pulled the Gamecocks back within three, 31-28, with just under four minutes to play. Back-to-back 3s by Cullen Neal put Ole Miss back in control, 37-28 with 3:13 to go.
Carolina was unable to close the gap before the horn and trailed 42-31 at the break, just its second double-digit halftime deficit of the season. Thornwell had 11 points to lead the team. Freshman Maik Kotsar and sophomore Hassani Gravett each had five. Thornwell and Gravett combined for eight of the team’s nine first half assists. The Rebels shot the ball efficiently in the first 20 minutes, going 16-for-28 (57 percent) from the floor and 6-for-10 (60 percent) from behind the arc. Breein Tyree led all scorers with 13 (6-for-9). Sebastian Saiz was also in double figures for Ole Miss with 11 points.
The Rebels hot shooting continued to start the second half, as they opened the game’s final 20 minutes on a 9-0 run. Tyree hit a 3 to put Ole Miss ahead 20, 51-31, forcing Martin to take a timeout with 16:38 to go.
Maik Kotsar made it 54-43 at the under-12 media timeout with 11:58 to go.
Senior Duane Notice got to the rim and scored, then Gravett knocked down a 3-pointer to pull the Gamecocks within six, 54-48, with 10:26 left. Ole Miss led 60-52 at the under eight media timeout. Carolina came within four, but the Rebels took advantage of a three minute scoring draught for the Gamecocks to go ahead 65-56 at the final media timeout with 3:56 remaining.
Notice knocked down a huge 3-pointer to cap a 7-0 run for Carolina, pulling the team within four, 71-67, with 1:07 left in the game. The deficit went back to seven, but the Toronto, Ontario, native, pulled Carolina within four again, 74-70, after another big 3 with 25 seconds to go. The Gamecocks were unable to find the bottom of the net the rest of the game, as Ole Miss held on for the hard-fought 75-70 victory.
15 of the Rebels’ 33 second half points came at the free throw line as they held on for the win.
- Thornwell logged his 15th 20-point game of the season (30th career) Saturday night. He became the first Gamecock to lead the SEC in scoring in league games (22.1 ppg) since Devan Downey (26.2 ppg) in 2009-10.
- The Lancaster, S.C., native, went 11-for-16 at the charity stripe, marking his fifth game in SEC play with double-digit makes at the foul line.
- Gravett, who made his second career start, finished with 10 points. It was his first game with 10-plus since he scored a career-high 12 in a road win at Tennessee on Jan. 11. He set a new career high with six assists in tonight’s game.
- Carolina forced 17 turnovers. The Gamecocks forced 15-plus turnovers in 17 of their 18 SEC games.
- South Carolina’s 17 assist Saturday night were it’s most since a season-high 23 vs. Auburn on Jan. 24.
South Carolina has earned a double-bye in next week’s SEC Tournament and will play as the No. 4 seed in Nashville. The Gamecocks will open play in the quarterfinals in the second game of the first session on Friday. Carolina will face either Alabama, LSU, or Mississippi State at approximately 3:30 ET on the SEC Network.
TWEET OF THE GAME