Carolina defeats Florida for first Final Four berth
Send a link to a friend
[March 27, 2017]
NEW YORK -- South Carolina coach
Frank Martin listens to only one type of music -- Frank Sinatra's.
So, it was fitting that Sinatra's "New York, New York" was blaring
at Madison Square Garden while Martin was cutting down the nets
after South Carolina's 77-70 win over Florida in the East Regional
final on Sunday.
The seventh-seeded Gamecocks (26-10) are headed to the Final Four
for the first time in school history. They will meet Gonzaga on
Saturday in a national semifinal.
"I usually listen to 'My Way' the day of the game," Martin said.
"And then to be up on that ladder cutting that net and (fulfilling)
a lifelong dream, and hear 'New York, New York' at a place that's
special to me, special to my family, it's pretty powerful."
It's the third time in the past four years that a seventh seed is
headed to the Final Four.
Sindarius Thornwell, the Most Outstanding Player in the East Region,
led South Carolina with 26 points, going 8 of 13 from the floor and
9 of 10 from the line. He scored three points with an assist and a
steal in the last 2:23 of the game.
"I just made plays, I was just in a situation where I just made
plays," Thornwell said. "I feel like our team is the most underrated
team in the country. Outside of me. But our team's the most
underrated team as a whole.
"I just felt like plays needed to be made down the stretch and I
stepped up and was in a situation where I was able to make the
"We're not going to settle for this and we still feel like we got
one more game. Why not? Why not us, why not go win it all. And
that's our mindset. We feel like we can compete with anybody right
now in the country."
PJ Dozier had 17 points, Chris Silva scored 13 points and Maik
Kotsar added 12 points for the Gamecocks, who trailed by seven
points at the break.
Justin Leon paced fourth-seeded Florida (27-9) with 18 points and
KeVaughn Allen had 13 points.
The Gators relied on the 3-pointer in the first half, but failed to
make any of their 14 from long range in the second half. Florida
missed all 17 of its 3-pointers the first time the two teams played
each other, a 57-53 Gamecocks win on Jan. 18.
"We could have gone 0-14 and still won the game," Florida coach Mike
White said. "Obviously, you want to make shots, it's a big part of
"I don't know why... I know they're (South Carolina) a terrific
defense. We took some contested ones. We had a few open ones. Just
they just didn't fall for us."
South Carolina ranks eighth in 3-point field goal percentage
defense, just a shade under 30 percent.
After three straight free throws from South Carolina made it 70-65,
a conventional three-point play by Allen cut the lead to 70-68 with
53 seconds left, but that would be the closest Florida would get as
the Gamecocks scored the final three points of the game on free
throw from Thornwell and dunk by Duane Notice.
[to top of second column]
South Carolina Gamecocks forward Chris Silva (30) drives to the
basket against Florida Gators guard Chris Chiozza (11) during the
second half in the finals of the East Regional of the 2017 NCAA
Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Brad
Penner-USA TODAY Sports
The score was tied six times in the span of just
under six minutes before Thornwell's two free throws with 2:24 left
put the Gamecocks up 65-63 for good and a mid-range jumper from
Kotsar pushed the lead to 67-63 with 1:55 remaining.
A tip-in from Kotsar provided the Gamecocks with their first lead of
the second half at 49-48 with 11:28 to play. Florida went 4:32
without a basket.
South Carolina forced 11 turnovers, receiving 13 points from the
miscues, but had trouble defending the perimeter. The Gators were
7-of-12 from beyond the arc and led at the break, 40-33
There were nine lead changes and the score was tied four times
before the Gators got some separation with a 9-2 run to pull ahead
Four straight 3-pointers gave Florida a 32-28 lead with 3:01 left in
Thornwell scored 15 points in the half, going 6-of-8 from the
Martin has transformed the South Carolina program in a conference
more noted for high-caliber football.
"I've never changed my mindset," he said. "It's been my mindset from
day one. Our job was to elevate our program to where we can compete
for a SEC championship. That was it. And that's what we have been
striving to do.
"And I know that if we can elevate our program to where we can
compete for a SEC championship, because I know our league, we have a
chance to win games in this tournament. And that's what's happened.
Our kids believe in each other, they work their tails off, and we
keep our focus where it matters."
NOTES: Southeastern Conference schools met in a regional final for
the first time since Kentucky faced LSU in 1986. ... Florida and
South Carolina split their two regular-season games. The Gators won
81-66 in Gainesville and the Gamecocks took a 57-53 decision in
Columbia. ... Florida is the last Division I team to win
back-to-back NCAA Tournament titles (2006, 2007). ... The Gators
were making their ninth Elite Eight appearance, all of which have
come since 1994. ... This was the first neutral-site contest between
South Carolina and Florida since the 2006 SEC tournament
championship game in Nashville.
[© 2017 Thomson Reuters. All
Copyright 2017 Reuters. All rights
reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten