It was easy to forget there was an actual game.
South Carolina being off for a week led to a week’s worth of concern over leading scorer and rebounder Sindarius Thornwell, who remains indefinitely suspended as the No. 19 Gamecocks (8-0) resume their schedule. He can practice and travel, but cannot play, and while coach Frank Martin and others left no doubt Thornwell will eventually return, nobody has a clear-cut answer of when.
It won’t be Monday, as USC heads back to New York to play Seton Hall in the Under Armour Reunion, so the focus of this week was getting through exams and figuring out how to handle the Pirates. The excitement of playing in Madison Square Garden – on the Gamecocks’ last trip to New York, they went to a Knicks game and the players were ready to play right then – is dimmed by the Thornwell news, but USC remains the only undefeated team in the SEC.
“Different roles have to be, I don’t want to say created, but different responsibilities have to be divvied up to different people,” Martin said. “That’s the handful in trying to find a solution. The good thing is we’ve had all week to try and prepare our team to play without Sindarius.”
Seton Hall isn’t as strong as last year’s team that made the NCAA Tournament, but the Pirates beat Iowa on its home floor and Cal on a neutral court. They also lost to Florida and Stanford.
Thornwell’s absence deprives the Gamecocks of their go-to scorer, but in the last game, Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier filled that void with a combined 47 points. USC’s biggest challenge is on defense, where Thornwell was the head of the snake in an attack that was tying up every opponent.
“He always took on the leading scorer on the perimeter for the other team,” Martin said. “It’s going to put some more responsibility on (Dozier’s) plate.”
The 6-foot-6 Dozier brings more length to the top of the defensive set and he’s flourishing as a sophomore, able to stay on the floor and produce while he’s there. He’ll likely draw two-guard Khadeen Carrington, who’s averaging 20 points per game, at MSG.
“The way we kind of conduct our defense, it’s kind of a team thing,” Notice said. “Everybody does their job. I feel like we’ll still be one of the strongest defenses in the nation.”
Martin will also have to adjust his bench minutes, and mentioned he might move power forward Maik Kotsar to the three to help out. It’s all hands on deck at the moment, and while nobody likes the situation, Thornwell’s continued presence with the team helps.
“It’s a blessing he’s still able to practice with us and he’s still with us every day,” Notice said. “We’re still undefeated, trying to get better.”
NOTE: Sophomore guard TeMarcus Blanton (groin) traveled to New York, but his status is unknown. Martin wasn’t optimistic about Blanton’s chances of playing Monday.
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SETON HALL (7-2) vs. NO. 19 SOUTH CAROLINA (8-0)
What: Under Armour Reunion
When: 9 p.m., Monday
Where: Madison Square Garden, New York
Radio: 107.5 FM
Seton Hall’s probable starters: G Angel Delgado 6-2 Sr. (13.6 ppg, 10.9 rpg); G Khadeen Carrington 6-4 Jr. (20.0 ppg, 2.7 rpg); F Desi Rodriguez 6-6 Jr. (14.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg); F Madison Jones 6-10 Jr. (5.4 ppg, 2.2 rpg); F Ismael Sanogo 6-8 Jr. (3.3 ppg, 5.0 rpg)
South Carolina’s probable starters: G P.J. Dozier 6-6 So. (12.8 ppg, 4.5 rpg); G Justin McKie 6-4 Sr. (4.6 ppg, 3.1 rpg); G Duane Notice 6-2 Sr. (11.5 ppg, 1.9 rpg); F Maik Kotsar 6-10 Fr. (9.1 ppg, 4.1 rpg); F Chris Silva 6-9 So. (9.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg)
Next game: South Carolina tips off at USF at 1 p.m. on Saturday.