Greenville, S.C. — South Carolina is heading to Madison Square Garden — and not for the NIT.
A Gamecocks program known largely — and mocked often by some — for its back-to-back NIT championships in 2005 and 2006 is now heading to the world’s most famous arena as part of the NCAA’s Sweet 16. They are making their first appearance in the regional semifinals since the bracket expanded after an 88-81 victory Sunday night over No. 2 seed Duke in the East Regional.
And Sindarius Thornwell says he believes bigger things are ahead.
“We’re not satisfied,” he said. “We’re in it, so why not win it?”
The Gamecocks (24-10) seem capable of anything after this one.
Thornwell had 24 points, Chris Silva scored 13 of his 17 points in the second half and Duane Notice had 17 points, 14 in a 65-point second half, as South Carolina rallied from 10 points down for a second straight NCAA victory.
The 65 points were the most given up in a half by a Mike Krzyzewski-coached Duke team.
The Gamecocks shook off a 20-percent shooting first half for the win.
“I told the guys at halftime, someone’s got to have the courage and make shots,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
When the horn sounded, South Carolina players, coaches and staff rushed to the fans at Bon Secours Wellness Arena to celebrate — a crowd that included Houston Texans Pro Bowl defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, a former Gamecock.
Next up is the East Regional where South Carolina takes on third-seeded Baylor, an 82-78 winner over Southern Cal earlier Sunday.
Duke (28-9) was attempting to reach the round of 16 for the sixth time in eight seasons. The Blue Devils, though, could not surmount South Carolina’s stifling defense. Leading scorer Luke Kennard had his second straight subpar shooting game, finishing 1 of 6 for 11 points before fouling out.
The Blue Devils made five of their eight 3-point attempts in the first half, yet only 5 of 19 after the break. They had tied a season high with 18 turnovers against the relentless Gamecocks attack.
Silva added 10 rebounds for his fourth double-double this season.
Grayson Allen led Duke with 20 points.
Krzyzewski said South Carolina’s physical nature wore down his team in the second half.
“That’s the most physical team we’ve faced all year,” he said.
Even as South Carolina got in front, Duke believed it could mount a comeback like the several it pulled off last week to become the first ACC champion to win four games on the way to a title.
“We’ve done it before. We thought we could,” Matt Jones said. “The shots just didn’t fall today. We couldn’t find enough energy to muster up that late push.”
More East Region
Baylor 82, Southern California 78: Johnathan Motley had 19 points and 10 rebounds, and No. 3 seed Baylor defeated No. 11 seed Southern California 82-78 on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Terry Maston scored 19 points, King McClure added 17 and Manu Lecomte scored all 12 of his points in the final 5 minutes for the Bears (27-7), who advanced to play Duke or South Carolina in the Sweet 16.
Chimezie Metu scored 28 points and Bennie Boatwright added 16 for USC (26-10), which was trying to make its first Sweet 16 appearance since 2007. The Trojans had rallied from second-half deficits to win their first two NCAA Tournament games.
A four-point play by Lecomte put the Bears up 69-67. Lecomte, who hadn’t scored the entire game, scored eight points in 45 seconds to put the Bears up 73-67, and Baylor led the rest of the way.
North Carolina 72, Arkansas 65: Kennedy Meeks had 16 points and a huge tip-in with 44.2 seconds left to help North Carolina barely avoid a huge upset by rallying to beat Arkansas 72-65 in Sunday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Justin Jackson added 15 points for the Tar Heels (29-7), including the dunk that capped a game-closing 12-0 run by the South Region’s No. 1 seed to help it survive a wild game.
North Carolina led by 17 points after a dominating start, blew that lead and trailed 65-60 with about 3 1/2 minutes left then came up with a response befitting its veteran experience.
Isaiah Hicks came up big late, too, with a dunk and four free throws in the final 2 minutes to help UNC survive.
Daryl Macon scored 19 points to lead the eighth-seeded Razorbacks (26-10), who did everything right in the second half except close out the Tar Heels.
Kentucky 65, Wichita State 62: Bam Adebayo had a double-double and swatted away the final shot on Sunday as Kentucky sent Wichita State to yet another second-round heartbreak, 65-62 in the South region.
The youngest team in the NCAA Tournament grew up in the closing minutes.
Adebayo had 13 points and 10 rebounds. De’Aaron Fox had 14 points, including a late steal and dunk. Malik Monk blocked a shot and made a pair of free throws in the final 13 seconds. Adebayo clinched it by blocking Landry Shamet’s 3-pointer shot at the buzzer.
Yes, Kentucky’s freshman trio did it all.
Wham, Bam, move on ‘Cats (31-5), right into the Sweet 16 for the seventh time in nine years.
And wipe tears away again, Shockers (31-5).
UCLA 79, Cincinnati 67: Lonzo Ball scored 19 points and ignited UCLA’s rally from a poor start with nine assists, lifting the third-seeded Bruins to a 79-67 victory over Cincinnati on Sunday in the South Regional.
UCLA (31-4) had a hard time solving sixth-seeded Cincinnati’s active defense in the first half, unable to get shots to drop or get out in transition. The Bruins found a new gear in the second half, breaking out for dunks and dropping in strings of 3-pointers to quickly push the lead to double digits.
Now UCLA is headed to its third Sweet 16 appearance in four seasons under coach Steve Alford, erasing — at least in part — the 15-17 letdown of a year ago.
The Bruins will face No. 2 seed Kentucky in the South Regional semifinals Friday in Memphis.
Cincinnati (30-6) had no real answer when the Bruins got rolling falling short of their first Sweet 16 appearance since 2012.