South Carolina rode a stifling defense to a 64-50 win over no. 18 Syracuse in Brooklyn. PJ Dozier had a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds as South Carolina won its second straight game against a ranked opponent.
South Carolina used a pair of first half runs to take a 37-26 halftime lead. First, with a slim12-11 lead, South Carolina scored eight straight. A three-pointer ended the streak, but moments later, now up 22-17, South Carolina went on an 8-2 run. Sindarius Thornwell made a pair of free throws, and then forced a steal. Justin McKie made a floater in the lane. After Andrew White III made a baseline fadeaway jumper, TeMarcus Blanton drained an open 18-footer. After the media timeout, Dozier added a jumper to cap off the run.
The Orange played well to start the second half and opened with an 8-3 run. But after the under 16 media timeout, the Gamecocks' defense took over. The Gamecocks held the Orange without a field goal for eight-and-a-half minutes. However, the Gamecocks also went cold, going five minutes without a basket and only extending their lead by two.
After White made a three to snap Syracuse cold stretch, Maik Kotsar and Thornwell combined to score six straight for South Carolina. That spurt put South Carolina up comfortable, and it made free throws down the stretch to clinch the win
Early on, it was Dozier dong the damage for the Gamecocks. He scored seven of the first 10 points as he was able to find the holes in Syracuse's 2-3 zone for open jump shots. That knack for finding open spaces also helped him grab a career-high 10 rebounds.
Thornwell was his usual stellar self, grabbing six rebounds and dishing out a team-high five assists. He also made critical free throws down the stretch, going 9-10 from the stripe. But the surprise star of the game was the freshman Kotsar. He only grabbed two rebounds, which will no doubt draw Frank Martin's ire, but he scored a career-high 16 points and it seemed like every Gamecock run included a basket by Kotsar.
Kotsar had a dismal start to the season. He left the exhibition against Newberry with cramps, and played 15 minutes r less in the first two games as he struggled with fouls. Against SC State, the light came on. Kotsar stayed out of foul trouble and scored 15 and hauled in eight rebounds. He continued the strong play against Michigan, scoring 10. With his output against Syracuse, he is now averaging 13.7 points over the last three games and shooting 78 percent from the floor.
Like the win over Michigan, though, the story was the South Carolina defense. Three days after holding Michigan to 18 percent shooting, South Carolina held Syracuse to 32 percent from the floor. This season, only Louisiana Tech (44 percent) in the first game has shot over 40 percent against South Carolina. Syracuse's 32 percent is the best shooting percentage in the last four games and right at South Carolina's season percentage.
Notes: Dozier's double-double was the first of his career. ... Thornwell's streak of 20-point games was snapped at four, but he has still led or tied for the team lead in scoring in every game this season. ... South Carolina is now 3-0 in games at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. It also beat then no. 9 Iowa State there in 2015. ... Syracuse had the rebounding edge for most of the first half, but South Carolina ended up with a 36-30 advantage. ... South Carolina shot 45 percent from the floor. ... South Carolina returns to the court December 1 against Vermont.