Rushed Reactions: #7 South Carolina 77, #4 Florida 70Posted by Justin Kundrat on March 26th, 2017
RTC will be providing coverage of the NCAA Tournament from start to finish. Justin Kundrat (@justinkundrat) is in New York City this weekend.
Three Key Takeaways.
- The story of the NCAA Tournament remains the Gamecocks’ offensive turnaround. All season long, Frank Martin’s group subsisted on its stingy defense to compensate for a pedestrian offense. In conference play, South Carolina averaged an average 1.00 points per possession, good for 11th in the SEC. But Greenville and New York City have been much kinder: In its four-game run to the Final Four, this metric has ballooned to 1.16 PPP. This boon can be attributed to a greater degree of success on the offensive glass, thereby generating higher percentage shots around the rim and incremental opportunities at the free throw line. Against a stout defensive team in Florida, South Carolina scored 42 of its 77 points in the paint, with an additional 23 points coming at the free throw line.
- In a rare turn of events, South Carolina’s defense was exposed and looked beatable in the first half. The lightning quick Florida backcourt was largely neutralized, something the Gamecocks have been doing all season via ball pressure and jumping the passing lanes. So even though Mike White’s team committed 16 turnovers, Florida’s multifaceted offense proved effective throughout most of the game. The pick-and-roll offense forced South Carolina to send help to the paint, tacking fouls onto Chris Silva and leaving them exposed on the perimeter. As such, Florida wings Devin Robinson and Justin Leon had countless open looks, but could not convert on enough down the stretch to compensate; the Gators went a miserable 0-for-14 from three in the second half.
- SEC country is everywhere, and it’s not just limited to football. There were some comments after the first game on the surprising turnout from South Carolina fans for a basketball game in New York City. Naturally, Frank Martin was quick to challenge the surprising nature of it. Bandwagon fans or not, the collective attendance from Gamecock and Gator fans here this weekend certainly changed a common perception about the SEC. Like their football counterparts, they too can bring any basketball stadium to life.
Star of the Game. Sindarius Thornwell, South Carolina. The senior guard took charge of the game again today on both ends of the floor, compiling 26 points and seven rebounds on 8-for-13 shooting. It’s also no surprise that Thornwell won the East Region Most Outstanding Player award. South Carolina’s time in the spotlight has been a major benefactor for Thornwell’s nationwide recognition as well as his draft stock.
- Florida coach Mike White on his team’s poor second half showing: “We could have controlled the offensive rebounds more so than making open shots.”
- Sindarius Thornwell: “All we wanted was a bid in the Tournament and to get our name on the board… the rest would take care of itself.”
- Frank Martin: “We have a little saying that we started this year and we were, kind of when we were scrambling a little bit, and in late January, early February, and I said to our guys, I said, have you guys ever been in a tug of war?… If one person on one side let’s go of the rope, it’s bad. I don’t care how hard it is, you can’t let go of the rope or your team’s going to lose.”
Sights & Sounds. Unsurprisingly, South Carolina fans were out in full force to see the Gamecocks play for its first Final Four appearance. It felt like a home game for Martin’s squad throughout, from the game itself to the mascot dance-off competitions during media timeouts.
What’s Next? The Gamecocks will pack their bags and head to Phoenix, marking the schools’ first Final Four in history. Florida seniors Kasey Hill, Canyon Berry and Justin Leon have wrapped up their collegiate careers, but the rest of Mike White’s group will begin their offseason preparations.