South Carolina's aggressive and stifling defense propelled the Gamecocks to a 70-50 victory over Baylor on Friday night in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament.
The Gamecocks put on a defensive clinic at Madison Square Garden by swarming to the ball on every Baylor possession and causing contested shots all night.
South Carolina's first-half performance was particularly remarkable, as the stats show:
Brad Evans of Yahoo Sports used an appropriate GIF to describe the Gamecocks' performance:
The Gamecocks also went on an 18-0 first-half run over a 6:01 span, turning a 15-13 deficit into a 31-15 advantage. South Carolina's defense was exceptional, but so was its offensive ball movement, as this possession proved:
South Carolina eventually took a 37-22 lead into halftime.
The defense was the catalyst for SC's win, but multiple sources also reported that the Madison Square Garden crowd was decidedly pro-South Carolina:
Baylor put up a fight in the second half, cutting the Gamecocks' lead to 49-38 with 10:40 remaining. However, the Gamecocks answered with back-to-back three-pointers, punctuated by senior guard Duane Notice's shot from downtown:
Bruce Feldman of Fox Sports noted how dominant South Carolina has been since halftime of its second-round contest against Duke:
That margin is now 135-101.
South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell continued his torrid start to the NCAA tournament, scoring 24 points to go along with six rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Three other Gamecocks also scored in double digits.
Baylor forward Johnathan Motley led the Bears with 18 points and nine rebounds, but the Bears shot just 30.4 percent from the field and committed 16 turnovers.
South Carolina will now play either Florida or Wisconsin in the Elite Eight on Sunday. Expect that game to be a slugfest given how well South Carolina has been performing defensively.
Furthermore, Florida and Wisconsin are ranked third and eighth in adjusted defensive efficiency, per KenPom.com, so this matchup will likely conjure up memories of old 1990's New York Knicks games at the Garden, when all contests were physical, defensive-oriented battles.
Baylor head coach Scott Drew posted a couple of classy tweets after the game:
Meanwhile, South Carolina head coach Frank Martin fielded a great question from a young reporter from Sports Illustrated for Kids:
The Gamecocks impressed a lot of folks after their resounding win, and former NFL executive Michael Lombardi was one of them: