It was Nov. 12, 2013, and a bunch of fresh-faced South Carolina rookies lost to Baylor, 66-64. The Gamecocks played a close game, but a Bears squad led by Cory Jefferson, Isaiah Austin and Brady Heslip was too much to overcome.
Four years later, rookies Sindarius Thornwell, Duane Notice and Justin McKie are seniors (as are Baylor’s Ish Wainwright and Al Freeman). What’s changed?
“They were good then and they’re good now,” Thornwell said. “They’ve just got guys that are committed to winning and they just have a winning program.”
South Carolina’s keys to pulling the Sweet 16 upset on Friday:
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With Baylor’s starting front line standing 6-foot-10 and 7-0, it’s imperative for USC’s Chris Silva to keep out of foul trouble and stay in the game. Even when the Gamecocks’ post game is shut off early (see last game against Duke), it can flourish if they keep at it.
With no Silva, USC would have to depend on its outside shooting game, which hasn’t been consistent all year. “You don’t make some jump shots against them, they’re a problem,” coach Frank Martin said. “And when I say jump shots, I don’t mean 3s.”
Baylor averages nearly 38 rebounds per game; USC is close behind at 36.3. The Gamecocks might not have too many more 65-point halves in their bag, so denying Baylor second chances while converting a few of their own is paramount.
It’s hard to get a handle on how many ways Baylor can attack from the perimeter, with three players holding at least 107 assists. The Gamecocks’ on-the-ball defense, led by the superb Duane Notice, has to be at its frustrating best.
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (13.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg); G Sindarius Thornwell 6-5 Sr. (21.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (10.3 ppg, 2.4 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (5.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (10.0 ppg, 5.8 rpg)
Baylor’s probable starters: G Manu Lecomte 5-11 Jr. (12.3 ppg, 1.8 rpg); G Ishmael Wainwright 6-5 Sr. (5.7 ppg, 5.1 rpg); G King McClure 6-3 So. (5.0 ppg, 1.2 rpg); F Johnathan Motley 6-10 Jr. (17.3 ppg, 9.9 rpg); F Jo Lual-Acuil 7-0 Jr. (9.2 ppg, 6.8 rpg)