David Cloninger

Gamecocks dunk four teams in tournament tug-of-war

Sindarius Thornwell has been talking about securing the bag all season. It’s a rap lyric he turned into a catchphrase.

Frank Martin revealed another one in New York.

When the Gamecocks were stumbling to five losses in seven games in February and early March, Martin asked his team if they’d ever been in a tug-of-war. Some said yes, some said no.

“I said, ‘Well, if you haven’t, this is how it works. You have two groups of people, and they’re both pulling in opposite directions. If one person on one side lets go of the rope, it’s bad,’ ” Martin said. “I don’t care how hard it is, you can’t let go of the rope or your team’s going to lose.”

It was a perfect analogy. The Gamecocks were extended a lifeline when Selection Sunday called their name, and they haven’t let go of the rope.

“So, at halftimes of games, our guys don’t panic. I’m the one that loses my mind,” Martin said. “They don’t panic, they stay the course, they hold on to that rope. Doesn’t mean we’re going to win, but they don’t give in to a difficult moment.”

The Gamecocks have trailed at halftime in three of their last four games. On Thursday, they were loose and nonchalant despite star Sindarius Thornwell missing practice with a “body temperature” issue (SPOILER: he’ll play Saturday).

The mantra since Selection Sunday is, “Nobody expected us to be here. So why not go win?”

Nobody asked Gonzaga if they’d ever played tug-of-war.

Whatever they answered, they’re in for the most intense round they’ve ever played on Saturday.

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