The Daily Gamecock

Rapid Reaction: Gamecocks hold off late Clemson rally, stay undefeated

It seems South Carolina has become a basketball school. One of less than 10 undefeated teams in Division 1 men’s basketball, the Gamecocks traveled to Bon Secours Wellness Arena for a road matchup with 7-3 Clemson. 

Well, maybe it wasn’t a true road game. The Gamecock faithful showed up in full force to support head coach Frank Martin and 9-0 South Carolina.

The Palmetto State rivals started fast and physical, trading tough baskets in a tight defensive struggle. Then, tied 14-14 with just over 10 minutes left in the first half, the Gamecocks broke it open. Martin made some defensive adjustments and South Carolina went on a 19-0 run, led by seniors Mindaugas Kacinas and Michael Carrera and junior Sindarius Thornwell, who combined for all but five of those points.

“We were playing our game,” Carrera said. “The first half was one of the best halves we’ve ever had.” 

When Thornwell drove into the paint and dunked over 6-foot-10 center Landry Nnoko to put the Gamecocks up by 16, ‘The Well’ erupted into a Game-Cocks chant.

However, despite taking a 41-25 lead into halftime, the Gamecocks again struggled to close. The Tigers, who entered Friday’s contest surrendering just 56.9 points per game, moved to a zone defense in the second half and baffled the Gamecocks for much of the period.

The Gamecocks struggled to get the ball inside, notching only six points in the paint after scoring 18 in the first half.

For all the struggles on offense though, the Gamecock defense played well enough to hold on. South Carolina allowed only 59 points and held the Tigers to 36.5 percent from the field.

Once again, the Gamecock offense was a balanced attack, and Carrera led with 14 points. Freshman guard P.J. Dozier added 13 points and six rebounds, including three crucial boards in the final three minutes.

“Great plays by P.J. [Dozier],” Martin said. ”For a freshman to take on the hardest job on a basketball team, which is point guard, and be in his first true road game and have the courage and the discipline to get those rebounds and then make the 1-and-1 after missing one, shows a lot about who he is as a kid. That’s what’s great about coaching him.”

With the win, the Gamecocks move to 10-0 for the second time in team history and first since 1933; they will head to Connecticut to face 7-3 St. John’s on Tuesday.