Sindarius Thornwell introduced himself to the rest of the country, P.J. Dozier showed how unstoppable he can be when he puts his head down and Rakym Felder and Justin McKie handled the bench contributions. All were integral to South Carolina’s historic 93-73 NCAA tournament win over Marquette Friday.
And there was Duane Notice, calmly deflecting praise as usual, thanking his teammates for what he was able to do.
“I can’t take credit for what I do because the guys behind me are the ones that are talking with me, communicating with me, instilling the power in me to play that type of defense,” he nonchalantly said.
Ask Marquette how they feel about Notice. They’d probably reply with head shakes, mournful expressions and phrases such as “pit bull,” “octopus” and “that guy climbed in my jersey and would NOT leave.”
Notice’s defense turned that game.
Marquette was doing what it does early Friday. The Golden Eagles aren’t a good defensive team, so they take rebounds and start possessions by running at the opponent. Extra passes, quick shots, a reliance on the 3-pointer (and over a 40 percent clip of making them) all comes back to, “We can’t stop you, so we’ll score more than you.”
USC was putting itself in bad position by taking too many 3-pointers that were turning into those Marquette shots. Then their switches on defense were getting lost, leaving wide-open looks for the Eagles to drain 3s.
Notice stopped it.
Following a timeout, the Gamecocks tightened their on-the-ball defense, Notice running point on it. Now every ball-handler suddenly had a hand, shoulder or Notice’s beard in his face when he was looking to get rid of the ball.
USC climbed back into the game and then floored it in the second half. “Everybody talks about our defense, and talk about me stunting the ball and stuff like that, but Duane doesn’t get enough credit for what he does,” Thornwell said. “How he heats point guards up, how he routed them.”
Thornwell said Notice should have made the All-SEC Defensive team – he wasn’t alone there – but shot-blocking, steals and rebounding leaders usually get that. No matter – Notice was playing Friday night and winning, and when the Gamecocks look back on The Win as it’s sure to be called, they’ll look at him.
“He’s probably the best on-ball defender in the country,” Dozier said. “He really makes our defense.”
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