Frank Martin saw a bad night coming, after the last few days of practice weren’t good.
Sindarius Thornwell eased his mind.
“I know this -- I go home every day and I’m real happy he’s on our team,” Martin said after Thornwell scored 18 and had the decisive play in South Carolina’s 85-76 season-opening win over Louisiana Tech on Friday.
The Gamecocks’ senior guard swiped a pass and flushed it through the rim to complete back-to-back dunks after the Bulldogs cut the lead to four with less than four minutes to go. The two jams pushed USC out of the danger zone.
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“I started off with a lot of turnovers and forcing a lot of stuff that wasn’t there,” Thornwell said. “Once I settled down, I was all right.”
Fellow guards P.J. Dozier (a career-high 17) and Duane Notice (17) aided Thornwell as USC’s frontline was in foul trouble almost from the opening tip. With their bigs on the bench and Louisiana Tech forcing 15 turnovers, the Gamecocks turned to their veteran backcourt to get the job done.
It was the first of three games in five days. That was designed, Martin said, to put pressure on a newcomer-laded team early on.
“These first handful of games, the mettle of this team is going to get challenged,” he said.
NOTE: As expected, freshman Sedee Keita (wrist) did not dress. Ran Tut (knee), who missed the exhibition, scored four points and had six rebounds in 19 minutes.
Rakym Felder dressed but did not play.
Louisiana Tech cut it to five points with less than four minutes to go after being fouled on a 3-pointer, but three missed inside chances turned into a fast break and feed to Silva, who slammed it home. The next possession was a Thornwell steal and mimic with his own one-handed dunk.
Star of the game: Thornwell overcame his turnovers and early mistakes to once again lead the team with 18 points.
Play of the game: Thornwell’s steal and dunk.
Stat of the game: The Gamecocks had 19 second-chance points.
FROM THE BASELINE
Newbie: Maik Kotsar had three early plays in a row which showed how valuable he’ll be. He ripped a ball from Louisiana Tech to start a possession, saved an errant pass from going out-of-bounds, then deflected a pass after a full-court sprint to deny a wide-open shot.
What walk-on?: Jarrell Holliman had to play 14 minutes due to the bigs’ foul trouble. He responded with four points as Martin credited his importance to the team.
Who: South Carolina vs. Holy Cross
When: 6 p.m. Sunday
Where: Colonial Life Arena, Columbia
TV: SEC Network
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