Sweet 16 berth has Gamecocks thinking big
It wasn't the result of a lack of leadership.
Carolina kept its foot on the pedal as four more points from Thornwell pushed the lead to 86-69 at the final media timeout with 3:42 left in the game.
Of course, the political aspect of the site changing from Greensboro, North Carolina, to Greenville - HB2 - is well known by now, and it again became a major talking point after Duke and SC won their respective first-round games, setting up a virtual road game for the second-seeded Blue Devils.
The lack of a true point guard on the roster is not something that really had hurt Duke all that often the season, and it reached the point where that issue no longer seemed like a talking point with this team.
Arizona State: The Sun Devils have made 12 NCAA tournaments under Turner Thorne, but have advanced to the Sweet 16 just three times. He faced Duke's big men and went over top of them with a pair of slams, which helped the Gamecocks maintain their second half lead. How will the young guys like Jayson Tatum, Frank Jackson, and Harry Giles respond to this kind of situation?
Duke was in control until losing a 10-point lead in three minutes to start the second half. The Blue Devils, though, could not surmount South Carolina's stifling defense.
The Ducks are led by ESPNW National Freshman of the Year Sabrina Ionescu (14.4 points, 6.6 rebounds, 5.6 assists), freshmen posts Ruthy Hebard (14.8 points, 8.5 rebounds) and Mallory McGwire (7.6 points, 4.3 rebounds) and sophomore sharpshooter Lexi Bando (10.3 points, 48.9 percent from three-point range). It ended with Luke Kennard fouled out. Varnado said the players came out sluggish and could not fight their way out of it. SC was held to 53 points in a loss to Alabama in the SEC tournament.
Thornwell had 24 points, Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and Duane Notice had 17 points, 14 in a 65-point second half, as SC rallied from 10 points down for a second straight NCAA victory.
In the second half, SC shot 71.4 percent (20-28) from the floor and 91.3 percent (21-23) from the free throw line. More than that, they have new life with a trip out west and another week.
Even more fantastic, another perceived-as-middling SEC team, Arkansas, was achingly close to eliminating the ACC's other traditional kingpin, North Carolina. It was UCLA's 12th win over a No. 1 team, one behind North Carolina on the all-time list. The game was in Greenville, S.C., meaning that there wasn't a shortage of Gamecock fans in the building.
There are bracket busters in each tournament. "The ball's going to find who needed it at that time, and I just trust the system and trust the process".
It's on to the weekend that many consider the defining mark of a season.
The SEC Player of the Year put in arguably the best performance of the first round after he torched Marquette for 29 points on 10-19 shooting.
Back-to-back 3-pointers by Cazorla and Bando made it a 15-point game with eight minutes remaining, and a 7-0 response from the Blue Devils led by Brown and senior Oderah Chidom was not enough to get Duke within striking distance. And they never used it as an excuse. It had only missed six shots at that point in the second half. "It will be because they played better defense than we played offense". And it shows that if you're not doing one of those, that means you never really became a team.
They were super-talented, but Coach K had himself a flawed roster, one that lacked a defensive backbone and a true point guard.
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Fitzgerald was expected to receive plenty of playing time after averaging 9.6 points a game as a sophomore with the Aggies. Dixon put the Blue Raiders up by 14 with 15:31 to go in the second half with a wide-open, straightaway 3-pointer.
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Meanwhile, the offense is one of the most efficient in college basketball, shooting almost 52% from the field. So good, even a loss to rival Duke in the ACC Tournament wasn't enough to knock them down from a No. 1 seed.
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A year ago they were defeated by the North Carolina Tar Heels , who eventually lost in the championship, as a 16 seed. In the round of 32, you should continue to advance your No. 1 seeds as 88 percent of them move on to the Sweet 16.
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In terms of this season, the Tar Heels are averaging 84.9 points per game , and they are about to go up against a No. 16 seed . The No. 8 seed that Wisconsin (25-9) received was curious following runner-up finishes in the Big Ten regular season.