The exhibition might wind up being a better ice-breaker than the season opener.
South Carolina floored Newberry with a second-half surge in a 107-89 win on Sunday, the Gamecocks’ final test before starting the season Friday.
Coach Frank Martin warned the Gamecocks the Wolves were likely to give them problems, and he was dead on as Newberry ran and 3-pointer’ed USC repeatedly in the first half.
But the second half belonged to the Gamecocks, as they used an 11-2 opening run and a game-high 34 points from senior Sindarius Thornwell to slay the Wolves.
“Not bad for a first game out,” Martin said. “Only thing that concerned me … some of their guys were playing harder than our guys. And that’s not acceptable. But that’s the young guys.”
Newberry’s system is all tempo and long-range shooting, the Wolves subbing five for five throughout the game and running at all costs. A team that averaged 94.4 points and 31 3-point attempts per game last year lived up to its billing, hoisting 22 in the first half and making 10 as it kept USC from pulling away.
But the Gamecocks tightened their defense and let their veterans take over. Thornwell led the group, while Duane Notice and P.J. Dozer each had 17. They scored 26 points off 21 turnovers, and shot 50 percent from the field.
“We got caught up in trying to over-help them and leaving our responsibilities,” Thornwell said. “We came out of halftime and just settled down, and did what we do.”
With Newberry depending on five-guard lineups, they had to focus on rebounding the ball. They were hanging in during the first half, but USC’s size wore them down in the second.
The Gamecocks ended with 52 boards to Newberry’s 33. Thornwell led the way with 11.
USC was able to play freshman Khadim Gueye and junior Jarrell Holliman for a combined 28 minutes with Chris Silva in foul trouble, while freshman Maik Kotsar started. TeMarcus Blanton played the most minutes of his career and scored eight points, while Martin was able to mix and match his rotations.
The plan is for Newberry’s aggressive tempo to prepare USC for three games in five days to open the season. One point was proven – if the Gamecocks are in trouble, they can turn to their veterans.
“Sindarius is a heck of a player. Sindarius is a heck of a leader,” Martin said. “Him and Duane have grown as people and players. They have full ownership of this basketball team.”
Thornwell stuffed Marshall Lange and turned it into a break that became a couple of traded misses and a layup from Gueye. It was part of the salting run in the beginning of the second half.
Star of the game: Thornwell said he felt disrespected in the preseason by not getting any votes for the preseason all-SEC team in some publications. Even in an exhibition, he played angry, scoring 34 points with 11 rebounds, five blocks and five assists.
Play of the game: Justin McKie swished a one-handed 17-foot floater while wearing one shoe in the first half. The other was trapped beneath a Newberry player.
Stat of the game: The Wolves shot 40 3-pointers, making 18. They were 8 for 18 in the second half, after going 10 of 22 in the first. Perhaps they got tired.
FROM THE BASELINE
Names and faces: The Gamecocks have added Christian Schmitt to the roster as a walk-on. He joined the team in open tryouts and will wear No. 25.
Football player Evan Hinson is also listed on the roster as No. 23, although he didn’t play Sunday and won’t until football is over. It’s the same number former basketball/football star Bruce Ellington wore.
Freshman Sedee Keita (wrist) didn’t dress, and neither did freshman Rakym Felder (suspension).
Bench strength: Martin credited Holliman, a walk-on, as a very improved player earlier in the week and said he could make an impact this year. With Silva in foul trouble all game, Holliman played the most extensive minutes of his career. He ended with three points and three rebounds in eight minutes.
3-ball: Again, Newberry’s game is to shoot 3s. They averaged 31 a game last year and shot 40 on Sunday, making 18.
It’s their game, not USC’s chronic inconsistency to guard 3s from last year lingering. Much.
Who: Louisiana Tech at South Carolina
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Colonial Life Arena
TV: SEC Network Plus
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