South Carolina lost to LSU 71-68 Saturday afternoon, but found a glimmer of hope in the form of a re-emergent Sindarius Thornwell.
The freshman guard and Oak Hill Academy product had fallen into a slump of late, averaging just 7 points per game in his last six outings, including a 0-6 shooting night against Boise State and a 1-6 performance from the field against S.C. State.
But Thornwell rattled off a new career-high in scoring against LSU, carving up the Tigers' defense for 25 points in a game where South Carolina's other scorers faltered. The Lancaster, S.C., native was unstoppable Saturday, getting the the basket -- and the foul line -- with ease and knocking down open looks he created for himself.
After making just 12 of his 38 attempts from the floor over his last six games, Thornwell was a hyper-efficient 9-13 from the field against LSU, adding 6 more points from the line to go along with five rebounds and two assists.
"I was just getting open shots," Thornwell said after the game. "I was playing within the offense. It was just coming to me easy. It wasn't really, you know, 'give Sin the ball,' or anything like that. We just ran the offense and it just so happened that I was open."
For head coach Frank Martin, it was good to see Thornwell embrace coaching and break out of his slump.
"We've been on him about being more aggressive, more assertive," Martin said. "He's got to be more on attack mode offensively, and we've been harping that to him, and he was today. He got shots, he got to the line, which gave us little life."
But just as with Thornwell's previous career-high in scoring, a 20-point outing in a loss at Baylor, the 6-foot-5, 206-pounder couldn't carry the Gamecocks across the finish line. Thornwell was happy with putting the slump behind him, but not with the result.
"I think it's a confidence builder," Thornwell said. "But even though I had a good game, it doesn't mean anything if we lose."
MISSED OPPORTUNITY. Martin said after the Gamecocks' loss at Florida Wednesday that South Carolina needed to find a way create the kind of home-court atmosphere that the Gators enjoy.
Martin got his wish Saturday, as an outpouring of fans packed both the lower and upper decks of Colonial Life Arena to see South Carolina play its first home conference game. The home crowd was much louder than it had been all season, cheering wildly as the Gamecocks mounted several runs to climb back into the game down the stretch.
"It was the first time since I've been here that I felt we actually had a home crowd, and I'm extremely disappointed that they came here to support us and we let a great opportunity go from sending them home feeling good about our team," Martin said.
Martin credited USC's marketing department with getting fans to come to the game, but lamented that the Gamecocks "didn't do our part."
"We don't figure out a way to play better to get a win so our fans go home feeling good about it," Martin said. "I hope our fans don't give up on us. We can't get it done without them."
NOT MUCH HELP. South Carolina didn't get much offensive production outside of Thornwell (25), Tyrone Johnson (15) and Williams (11), as the rest of the roster combined for just 17 points. No player outside of those three guards took more than three shots, but Thornwell, Johnson and Williams hoisted up 13 attempts apiece.
HEAT CHECK. It was a tough day for Brenton Williams, who went cold from the floor and was manhandled during most of his acrobatic maneuvers at the basket. The senior guard was stuffed by a physical and athletic LSU frontcourt nearly every time he attacked the basket, and shot 1-11 from the floor until the final minute of the game, when he drained two three-pointers.
Williams' school-record for consecutive made free throws was snapped at 50, though he did manage to continue a few streaks with his performance. The Kissimmee, Fla., native now has made at least two three-pointers in nine straight games and has scored in double figures in seven straight contests.
FAILURE TO FINISH. The Gamecocks are now 0-2 in games decided by 6 points or less, while LSU moved to 3-2 in the same category.
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