No. 7 SC stuns title contender Duke to reach Sweet 16

Sindarius Thornwell scored 24 points to lead five Gamecocks in double figures, and SC put together a second half that did anything but mirror the first - the Gamecocks shot 71.4 percent from the field over the final 20 minutes and scored 65 of their 88 points after halftime.

"Before you were able to come in there, I told them I love these guys", Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski said. However, they failed to make it to the Final Four in any of those previous four instances.

And then the second half happened.

"They had it rocking".

"It's the most physical game we've been in all year", Krzyzewski said. "You could feel it".

And when we all thought the East Region opened up for Duke after No. 1 overall seed Villanova got dropped by Wisconsin, the Blue Devils got steamrolled by a team that lost six of their last nine games before the start of the tournament. The defense kept the Gamecocks in it, though, thanks to 13 first-half turnovers - they forced 18 in the game - that kept the Blue Devils from expanding their lead.

SC advances to the East region semifinal against No. 3 seed Baylor, set for 7:29 p.m. Friday at Madison Square Garden.

Gonzaga's turnover rate (14 percent) ranks 34th in the nation, but it's yet to face a team that presses and disrupts as much as West Virginia.

So while the legacy this team is going to leave is one of 'What could have been?', that's probably wrong, because this team was less of an enigma than we realized.

The Gamecocks - known largely, and mocked often by some, for their back-to-back NIT championships in 2005 and 2006 - are now heading to NY as part of the NCAA Tournament's Sweet 16. Yet they were only down by seven points to a team that so many penciled into their Final Fours.

The Blue Devils have now exited the tournament before the Sweet 16 five times in the last 11 seasons, and have reached the Elite Eight just three times in the past 13. It's certain that leaders Amile Jefferson and Matt Jones will move on, and it's possible that Jayson Tatum, Harry Giles, Grayson Allen and Luke Kennard take their games to the next level. "And I think we proved that", Turner Thorne said.

SC pulled ahead 39-38 with 15:10 left.

The Gamecocks struggled to find their shot early. Duke was stunned by SC. Duke didn't get closer than five the rest of the way, unable to slow down the Gameocks on the offensive end and lacking the firepower to make enough of a dent with the ball. The teams traded baskets for the next five minutes, and then SC took control.

The game was played in Greenville, SC, slightly more than an hour's drive away from South Carolina's campus in Columbia. "He had opportunities in the first half to score and he missed shots, he fumbled balls". The Gamecocks made 7 of 35 shots, with twice as many attempts as Duke (17).

"Everyone got a glimpse of how good we can be", coach Jamion Christian said. Which means that Sunday night's contest would've basically been a home game for Duke had it remained in Greensboro. Baylor has a lot of length and inside scoring, but if Silva's second half against Duke is any indication, the sophomore is up to the challenge.

Gonzaga has advanced to the Sweet 16. The Tar Heels saw a 17-point lead become a 65-60 deficit before they rallied in the final minutes to beat Arkansas, 72-65.

  • Julie Sanders