David Cloninger

A season when the glass slipper finally fit

South Carolina basketball makes it to the Final Four

USC Mens basketball made it to the Final Four for the first time in program history.
Up Next
USC Mens basketball made it to the Final Four for the first time in program history.

I sat in the airport lounge in Tucson, Ariz., having woken at 4 a.m. to drive two hours to catch a cheaper flight to Dallas, and as exhausted, grimy, sweaty and stained as I was, I loved where I was.

Since I broke into this business, I’ve wanted to cover the NCAA Tournament. Had a few close calls – I didn’t have enough seniority in 1997 and 1998, and the budget wouldn’t allow me to go in 2004 – but I’d never done it. I’ve never regretted picking up the South Carolina beat and sticking with it all these years, but every season when a Northern Iowa or Kent State or VCU or George Mason made a tournament run, I’d think, “When’s it gonna be my turn?”

Just one game. I didn’t care seed, location or opponent. I just wanted to be there.

And then I was, and I got to stay for five games, three cities and a lifetime of memories.

I was rereading “When March Went Mad,” the story of N.C. State’s unlikely run to the 1983 national championship and thought I was on the same kind of journey. I nearly was.

After the Gamecocks beat Marquette, I had my end-of-season stuff ready to go. I guess it’s the Eagle Scout in me (“Be prepared”) and also the trepidation – whenever the men lost, I was headed to Columbia or Stockton or Dallas to cover the women’s team. I didn’t want to be jumping on planes and shuttles needing to have copy in.

I loved having to keep those pieces to the side and rewrite everything. Really, I did. Every chance gave me a better way to find another way to express how monumental this run was.

When Chris Silva dunked to cause a Duke timeout, then Sindarius Thornwell found him for an alley-oop dunk right after the timeout, I knew the Gamecocks were going to win. Out with the old, in with a turn of phrase that the long-forgotten dancing slippers from 2004 were made of glass in 2017.

When the Gamecocks surrounded Johnathan Motley on the first possession against Baylor and caused a miss and runout, I knew they were going to win. Out with the old, in with a line on USC once again succeeding in the Big Apple.

When P.J. Dozier came up with a loose ball against Florida and spied Duane Notice with a step on his man, I junked the “Oh well” angle and went with one I’d stayed up writing the previous night. Notice, who never dunks, dunked to cement a Final Four berth, and I could publish how the heartache and agony of 109 years of basketball just ended, and my, what a bright world awaited.

It really didn’t sink in until I stepped onto the floor in Phoenix, seeing the NCAA Championship trophy at midcourt for photo ops and figuring “why not” as I swiped a ball from the rack and laid in a shot. From arriving with, “Look, some fool put USC’s logo up there beside the Final Four banner” to sitting down on press row, Grant Hill in front of me and Bill Walton to the right, it finally gelled that the little ol’ Gamecocks, the team that basketball forgot, were here.

There were smiles, tears and many memories. Lot of thoughts of losses I’d covered in Starkville and Charleston and Knoxville and Elon. Lot of regrets for the great ones that never had a chance to be there.

And an immense sense of confidence for what lies ahead. I’m not promising constant Final Four trips from now on, because basketball doesn’t work that way.

But now that USC finally joined the party, it’s a lot easier to see that happening.

Follow on Twitter at @DCTheState

Game-by-game results

Date

Matchup

Score

Nov. 11

vs LA Tech

W 85 - 76

Nov. 13

vs Holy Cross

W 81 - 49

Nov. 15

vs Monmouth

W 70 - 69

Nov. 18

vs S Carolina St

W 92 - 50

Nov. 23

vs (25) Michigan

W 61 - 46

Nov 26

@ (18) Syracuse

W 64 - 50

Dec. 1

vs Vermont

W 68 - 50

Dec. 4

vs FIU

W 70 - 54

Dec. 12

@ Seton Hall

L 64 - 67

Dec. 17

@ USF

W 77 - 66

Dec. 21

vs Clemson

L 60 - 62

Dec. 27

vs Lander

W 90 - 62

Dec. 30

@ Memphis

L 54 - 70

Jan. 4

@ Georgia

W 67 - 61

Jan. 7

vs Texas A&M

W 79 - 68

Jan. 11

@ Tennessee

W 70 - 60

Jan. 14

vs Ole Miss

W 67 - 56

Jan. 18

vs (19) Florida

W 57 - 53

Jan. 21

@ (5) Kentucky

L 69 - 85

Jan. 24

vs Auburn

W 98 - 69

Jan. 28

@ Missouri

W 63 - 53

Feb. 1

@ LSU

W 88 - 63

Feb. 4

vs Georgia

W 77 - 75

Feb. 7

vs Alabama

L 86 - 90

Feb. 11

@ Miss St

W 77 - 73

Feb. 15

vs Arkansas

L 76 - 83

Feb. 18

@ Vanderbilt

L 62 - 71

Feb. 21

@ (13) Florida

L 66 - 81

Feb. 25

vs Tennessee

W 82 - 55

Feb. 28

vs Miss St

W 63 - 57

March 4

@ Ole Miss

L 70 - 75

March 10^

vs Alabama

L 53 - 64

March 17*

vs (10) Marquette

W 93 - 73

March 19*

@ (2) Duke

W 88 - 81

March 24*

@ (3) Baylor

W 70 - 50

March 26*

@ Florida

W 77 - 70

April 1*

@ (1) Gonzaga

L 73 - 77

^ SEC Tournament

* NCAA Tournament

USC men’s roster

NO

NAME

POS

MPG

HT

WT

CLASS

HOMETOWN

#0

Sindarius Thornwell

G

34.3

6’-5”

211

SR

Lancaster

#1

Kory Holden

G

-

6’-1”

181

JR

Salisbury, MD

#2

Hassani Gravett

G

16.6

6’-1”

183

SO

Villa Rica, GA

#4

Rakym Felder

G

14.6

5’-10”

210

FR

Brooklyn, NY

#5

TeMarcus Blanton

G

5.9

6’-5”

206

SO

Locust Grove, GA

#10

Duane Notice

G

33.0

6’-2”

225

SR

Toronto, CAN

#12

Khadim Gueye

F

7.1

7’-1”

235

FR

Dakar, Senegal

#13

Tommy Corchiani

G

2.2

6’-1”

173

FR

Raleigh, NC

#14

Ran Tut

F

5.1

6’-9”

210

JR

Melbourne, AUS

#15

PJ Dozier

G

29.0

6’-6”

205

SO

Columbia

#20

Justin McKie

G

16.9

6’-4”

204

SR

Columbia

#21

Maik Kotsar

F

24.2

6’-10”

245

FR

Tallin, Estonia

#23

Evan Hinson

G

2.6

6’-4”

238

FR

Deltona, FL

#24

Sedee Keita

F

9.6

6’-9”

240

FR

Philadelphia, PA

#25

Christian Schmitt

G

1.4

6’-0”

175

FR

Mars, PA

#30

Chris Silva

F

21.0

6’-9”

223

SO

Libreville, Gabon

#31

Jarrell Holliman

F

5.9

6’-7”

206

JR

Alpharetta, GA

#34

John Ragin

G

-

6’-2”

177

SO

Eastover

  Comments