South Carolina beat No. 25 Michigan 61-46 Wednesday evening. Sindarius Thornwell was spectacular, leading all players with 21 points, 10 rebounds, and three blocks.
The game was a defensive and officiating struggle. Both teams had a poor night shooting, and near constant foul calls prevented either team from getting into any sort of rhythm. But South Carolina worked through the circumstances, and Michigan did not.
Frank Martin was thrilled with how his players adjusted and committed to the game plan. On Tuesday assistant coach Matt Figger had the players identify the keys to the game and wrote them down.
"We had 10 keys, five defensive and five offensive on the board, and those guys did exactly what they said they needed to do to win the game," Martin said.
In the second half, the Gamecocks attacked the rim relentlessly, either with post-ups or penetration. On the other hand, the Wolverines continued to fire away from long range, even as they shot themselves out of the game.
"Their defense really affected us," Michigan coach John Beilein said. "They rebounded the ball very well. We got beat by a better team."
Michigan missed 24 of 26 three point attempts and finished the game with just two assists on ten made baskets. Michigan shot 19 percent from the floor and an abysmal 14 percent in the second half. Players missed some open looks, but South Carolina did an outstanding job of contesting every shot.
"I don't think we were that open," Beilein said. "It wasn't like they were wide open. Their defense was good."
Michigan scored just eight points in the paint and not a single fast break point. Meanwhile South Carolina scored 36 points in the paint and had eight fast break points. South Carolina held a 40-36 rebounding edge and forced 16 turnovers.
"Our biggest thing to focus on was guarding the ball and don't let them make passes," Thornwell said. "Stay in line and disrupt their offense."
The game came down to the Gamecocks' ability to get to the rim and make shots. Forwards Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva both scored 10 points, but it was Thornwell who made play after play to pull away from the Wolverines. He defended every position, rebounded over much taller players, and got to the rim at will. Thornwell has had an outstanding start to his senior season and is in the best shape of his career. He is also playing without any pain in his knees, something that has hampered him in the past.
" I couldn't really go by people and couldn't really get under my shot," Thornwell said. "Now with my body I can go by people and make my shots. It boosts my confidence a lot."
Notes: TeMarcus Blanton did not play due to an abdominal strain. ... Michigan was at least consistent with its assists. It had one assist in each half. ... Sedee Keita, who missed the first four games of the season with a wrist injury, saw his first action against Michigan. He did not score and had only one rebound in eight minutes. However, he drew praise from Martin for his play. ... Someone's phone went off while Martin was speaking after the game. "Get on the line!" he yelled. Then he said, "It's okay. I'm in a good mood today." ... Duane Notice chipped in 13 points for South Carolina. ... South Carolina will play at Michigan either next season or the season after in the return game. ... South Carolina returns to action Saturday against Syracuse in Brooklyn.