South Carolina ran away from Holy Cross with an 81-49 win Sunday night at Colonial Life Arena. Sindarius Thornwell led USC with 20 points and five rebounds.
The first 25 minutes of the game were very similar to the opener for the Gamecocks. They used a run late in the first half to take a double-digit halftime lead, and then stretched the difference out to 15 five minutes into the second half. Against Louisiana Tech, the Gamecocks let up at that point and had to hold on for a tight win. Against Holy Cross there was no let up.
South Carolina clamped down defensively, holding Holy Cross under 30 percent shooting for much of the second half. On the other end, balanced offense enabled USC to push its lead to as much as 32.
“Everybody came in focused and ready to play, even the bench,” Thornwell said. “They came in locked in and did what coach asked them to do.”
South Carolina went on a 13-3 run over four minutes near the end of the first half to take control of the game. Ahead just 31-26, PJ Dozier made a pair of free throws to start the run. Duane Notice made a three off an offensive rebound, and then Thornwell made both free throws after being fouled on a defensive rebound. After forcing Holy Cross into a shot clock violation, Dozier hit a three. Robert Champion, who led Holy Cross with 18 points, made a three to break the streak, but Thornwell answered with a three of his own.
“We needed that momentum shift to carry into the second half,” Dozier said. “We traded buckets for a long time in the first half. To get that run was good for us.
The lead ballooned in the second half thanks in large part to the bench. Gamecock head coach Frank Martin played 12 players, and nine of them scored. Justin McKie had 10 points off the bench to lead the charge, but Martin said the key in the second half was starting post players Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva avoiding fouls and staying on the court.
“You see what happened in the second half when they were on the floor,” Martin said.
Martin also raved about the team’s focus in practice yesterday. He complained about a lack of focus going into the Louisiana Tech game, but the difficult win seemed to get their attention.
“I couldn’t ask our guys to have been better today,” Martin said. “I thought yesterday our guys were really in tuned.”
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Notes:Freshman forward Sedee Keita did not play due to a wrist injury. …Freshman Rakym Felder did not play in the exhibition or season-opener due to suspension, but returned against Holy Cross. He finished with eight points and three assists in 14 minutes. … Freshman Khadim Gueye, who committed three fouls and a turnover in one minute against Louisiana Tech, was much better in his second appearance. He had two rebounds and a block in 13 minutes, although Martin said Gueye needs to play with more energy. … South Carolina returns to the court Tuesday night against Monmouth.