Gamecocks going hard or going home

Logan Bowles USA TODAY Sports

A trip to the Final Four will be on the line on Sunday afternoon when the Florida Gators and the South Carolina Gamecocks matchup at the Madison Square Garden in NY.

"What they do is a great job of making it hard and then basketball's such a game of momentum and after you get off to a bad start", Drew said. SEC Network analyst Dane Bradshaw said the Gamecocks excelled at a fundamental aspect of playing outstanding defense. "We didn't settle for just regular shots", Wallace said. He's showing it right now.

"Coach told us just to continue to listen to him", Thornwell said.

"We don't feel like it's pressure because we're still getting picked against and we're still going in as the underdog", said Gamecocks senior guard Sindarius Thornwell. For the tourney, Thornwell's 6-of-12 from three and 16-of-33 overall. 18/16 Syracuse at the Barclays Center on November 26, before suffering a three-point loss to Seton Hall at Madison Square Garden on December 12, a loss on March 10 to Alabama in the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals in Nashville, and the NCAA Tourney wins over Marquette, Duke and Baylor.

While their field goal shooting in the first half left much to be desired, Thornwell and company came storming out in the second with 65 points. First half of Friday's 70-50 Sweet 16 victory over Baylor, defense on 6-10 forward Johnathan Motley and anchoring an 18-0 run that allowed USC to take control.

What a season for the Quinnipiac women's basketball team.

"I learned that they're a very aggressive team", Allen said.

Baylor, making its fourth consecutive NCAA appearance, ended its season 27-8. He's a legitimate 20-point scorer who nails 40 percent of his threes consistently and has shown up against premier teams on multiple occasions - 28 against USC, 25 against Arizona and 23 versus UCLA were some notables.

Martin recognizes winning changes perceptions, which is exactly what the SEC has done by placing three teams into the Elite Eight.

There's been no overlooking him in the NCAA Tournament, where he's ignited a SC run that so far has netted a first victory in 44 years, then consecutive tournament wins for the first time in school history, and a now a surge to the Elite Eight that's exceeded the Gamecocks' two total NCAA victories in their previous eight appearances combined.

But Thornwell's senior season hasn't been all smooth sailing; it was almost waylaid by a six-game suspension. I just let people know I don't appreciate that negativity. He could have wavered. Even then, his mom had to send him money.

But there was still plenty of atmosphere, plenty of passion, plenty of evidence that of the enduring popularity that begins with buzzer beating baskets and slipper-wearing Cinderellas doesn't end with them, that we can be similarly delighted to discover these teams we knew little about before the tournament began and amplifying on a national stage the stories that spent months captivating a local constituency. For what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and a down year expected by the experts, it was a season of first for the Bears.

The Gamecocks enter the Elite Eight for the first time in program history.

Florida is at its best when it gets balanced scoring throughout its lineup. The Bears have a deep bench, and are they one of the best rebounding teams in the county. "Even if we lose Ish and Mot, we're still going to be great".

Frank Martin brought it up a few weeks ago.

"It's bright lights", Thornwell said of playing at the World's Most Famous Arena. Friday night in Madison Square Garden wasn't the partisan audience that aided South Carolina's upset win over Duke on Sunday, but the garnet-clad fans were loud. I want them to be mad when I go home mad.

What's most impressive about the Gamecocks under Martin is how they've gotten incrementally better in conference play.

In his sixth year leading the Gamecocks program, Martin is squeezing every bit of great basketball he can out of this group.