No. 7 South Carolina completed one of the bigger upsets of the 2017 NCAA tournament with an 88-81 victory over No. 2 Duke on Sunday in Greenville, South Carolina.
Before Friday the Gamecocks hadn't won an NCAA men's basketball tournament game since 1973, and now they are headed to the Sweet 16.
Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports provided his thoughts on the Blue Devils' fate:
Jeff Eisenberg @JeffEisenberg
In a year in which Duke was always impossible to predict, this ending is fitting: A loss to a team nobody believed could beat them.2017-3-20 03:14:32
The Gamecocks had five players in double figures, led by Sindarius Thornwell and his 24 points, six rebounds and five assists.
ESPN.com's Jeff Goodman gave his thoughts on the SEC Player of the Year:
Jeff Goodman @GoodmanESPN
Sindarius Thornwell is so damn good. Plays both ends of court, tough as hell, makes big shots.2017-3-20 02:23:01
Chris Silva also had a big night with 17 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks.
It was a borderline road game for Duke, as Nicole Auerbach of USA Today explained:
Nicole Auerbach @NicoleAuerbach
North Carolina and South Carolina fans have come together to hate Duke. It's really quite a sight to behold (and hear, very loudly).2017-3-20 02:53:38
The crowd advantage was clear in the second half after this big dunk by Silva:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
It's getting LOUD in Greenville! #MarchMadness https://t.co/vkiyuM8ZI92017-3-20 02:16:01
As the game progressed, South Carolina was making both easy and difficult shots:
Bleacher Report @BleacherReport
South Carolina is here! #MarchMadness https://t.co/NVN4dYptVG2017-3-20 02:24:52
CBS Sports @CBSSports
Just a bit of a shooter's touch on this one. https://t.co/1CAeCvtes62017-3-20 02:43:38
The team made 71.4 percent of its attempts in the second half to pull away late.
The Blue Devils also struggled with the Gamecocks' aggressive defense, which forced 18 turnovers in the game. All-ACC guard Luke Kennard finished with just 11 points on 1-of-6 shooting and was one of three players on the team to foul out.
Amile Jefferson had a solid all-around effort with 14 points, 15 rebounds and six blocks, but it wasn't enough to help pull out the win.
Duke held the advantage in what was an ugly first half, much to the surprise of many watching along:
Sam Vecenie @Sam_Vecenie
Feels like Duke has turned the ball over on half of its possessions, all of their players have two fouls, and they’re still somehow up 8.2017-3-20 01:37:09
Seth Davis @SethDavisHoops
Duke has 13 turnovers! How are they up by 7?2017-3-20 01:48:49
The eventual 30-23 halftime lead was mostly thanks to worse play from South Carolina, which made just 20 percent of its field-goal attempts and was 3-of-17 from three-point range.
Although the Blue Devils made their mistakes, it was enough to stay in front.
The second half went much differently, however, with both sides picking up their offensive efficiency.
It came down to making shots, which South Carolina simply did better down the stretch. Shooting 27-of-32 from the free-throw line for a team that struggles from there, and the upset was complete.
The Gamecocks will move on to play No. 3 Baylor in the Sweet 16 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. With top-seeded Villanova already eliminated, the East Region is wide-open.
South Carolina head coach Frank Martin showed plenty of pride discussing his players after the win:
NCAA March Madness @marchmadness
"My seniors, when they were freshmen, they were losing. They never gave into losing." - Frank Martin #MarchMadness https://t.co/OScXnDaNmw2017-3-20 03:22:31
While the Gamecocks struggled in the first half, they turned this into a positive going into the second half.
"When you shoot 7-for-35 in the first half and you're down just seven points, I tell you, it just gives you confidence," Thornwell said, per Zach Schonbrun of the New York Times. "It was our defense. It kept us in it. We thought we could win the game coming out the second half because of shooting so poorly in the first half."
Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski also praised South Carolina after the game.
"That was the toughest defense we've played against all year," he said, per Auerbach. "Very physical."
The Gamecocks will hope this defense will carry them even further in the tournament.