South Carolina has reached a new level of success, reaching the Final Four for the first time with its 77-70 win against Florida on Sunday afternoon in Madison Square Garden in the East Regional finals.
The No. 7 seed Gamecocks were led by Sindarius Thornwell, a former four-star recruit who decided to stay home and is now a household name. USC coach Frank Martin is the coach everyone is going to love to root for as one of three Final Four newcomers.
“They’ve been with us for a while, they believe in each other, they put up with me!” Frank Martin told CBS Sports’ Allie LaForce after the game.
Thornwell had 26 points, extending his streak of 20+ point games to four, continuing the best individual tournament performance we’ve seen here in 2017.
The Gamecocks will face Gonzaga, another team making its first Final Four appearance, on Saturday in Phoenix.
South Carolina split the regular season series with the No. 4 Gators and won the rubber match with a total domination after halftime. Martin’s team has done a fantastic job of wearing teams down with their defensive style and it showed in the disruption of Florida’s offensive rhythm in the second half.
That disruption, followed an offensive spark from attacking the rim, helped South Carolina narrow and take the lead from the Florida.
Their unexpected run to the Final Four makes them an easy fan favorite, and with their style of play and fiery coach there are going to be a lot of casual college basketball fans jumping on board this bandwagon.
The Gamecocks got the advantage of a start to the NCAA Tournament in Greenville, S.C., with the home crowd rocking as they knocked off No. 10 seed Marquette in the first round and No. 2 seed Duke in the second round.
South Carolina defeated No. 3 Baylor in the Sweet 16 to set-up the SEC rematch vs. the Gators.