GREENVILLE, S.C. — Sindarius Thornwell had 29 points and 11 rebounds to help seventh-seeded South Carolina win its first NCAA Tournament game in 44 years, a 93-73 victory over Marquette to close first-round play in the East Region on Friday night.
If the Gamecocks (23-10) want an NCAA winning streak, they will have to beat No. 2 seed Duke, which blew past Troy 87-65 in an earlier game.
South Carolina last won a game in the NCAAs when it topped Southwestern Louisiana 90-85 in a regional consolation game on March 17, 1973. Exactly 44 years later, the drought — the Gamecocks were one-and-done in their next five appearances — finally came to end in front of a boisterous, South Carolina crowd who traveled the 2 hours north from Columbia to witness the end of an ugly run they couldn’t have imagined would last this long.
Marquette (19-13) gave fans some serious worries in the opening half, going up by 10 points. But the Gamecocks used an 11-0 run midway through the second half to take control. When Thornwell, voted Southeastern Conference player of the year by league coaches, nailed his third 3-pointer with 6:37 to play, South Carolina was up 76-67 and pulling away.
P.J. Dozier had 21 points, 13 in the South Carolina’s second-half rally.
Jujuan Johnson had 16 points to lead Marquette.
South Carolina’s win spoiled a made-for-TV second-rounder between Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his former Blue Devils point guard and longtime assistant, Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski.
The Golden Eagles could not keep up with the Gamecocks defensive pressure or high-tempo play in the second half.
Marquette came out firing — Rowsey opened the game with a four-point play — and moved in front 26-16. South Carolina, though, cut things to 40-39 at the half on Maik Kotsar’s layup with 42 seconds left.
THE BIG PICTURE
Marquette: The Golden Eagles withered in the second half, committing 12 of their 19 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. They also made only three 3-pointers after hitting eight in the opening half.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks won’t have it so free and easy against Duke as they did in this one. South Carolina will have to play more disciplined and find others besides Thornwell to make significant contributions if they hope to move on.