Greenville, SC (WLTX) - South Carolina didn't come into their game against Duke as the favorite.
They were the seventh seed. Duke was the second seed. The Gamecocks men's basketball team hadn't won a tournament game since 1973. The Blue Devils have won five national titles in that same time span.
So then it should come as no surprise that the Gamecocks dominated Duke by an 88-81 score that doesn't perhaps accurately capture the way USC outperformed the team from Tobacco Road.
Make no mistake, South Carolina didn't just win Sunday night: they manhandled Duke in a second half that saw records get broken and the Gamecocks earn their first-ever Sweet Sixteen bid.
They're defense suffocated Duke in the first half. While Duke was able to build a seven-point halftime lead, that was mainly due to USC's poor shooting: 20 percent from the floor.
When a Blue Devil got the ball, they got it in an uncomfortable position for them to turn and make a play. When a player tried to drive, they found a Gamecock defender there ready to impede their path.
But then USC found their offense in the second half. And that's where it ended.
USC shot 71 percent from the floor during those last 20 minutes of gametime. Duke couldn't match them. When it was all over, USC scored 65 second half points, a men's program record and the most ever given up by Duke in the Coach K era.
For the game, they got five more offensive rebounds than the Blue Devils, leading to second-chance points. They forced Duke to turn the ball over 18 times.
If you didn't know better, you'd think the team with the five national championships tradition wore Garnet & Black on this night.
"We're not satisfied with winning just one game or this game," said USC guard Sindarius Thornwell afterward. "We in it, so why not win it? Why not us?'
"We feel like we can compete with anybody in the country. The goal is to not just win one game or just win two games. The goal is always to win it all. And if you win it, why not win it all? That's our ultimate goal."
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