Thornwell leads South Carolina to an 81-49 victory
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell doesn't feel like he's starting from zero, despite a South Carolina roster filled with newcomers.
Thornwell, a senior, scored 20 points including four 3-pointers to lead the Gamecocks to an 81-49 victory over Holy Cross on Sunday night.
Thornwell comes off a 25-win season with South Carolina that featured a starting lineup of upperclassmen. This time, the Gamecocks have seven first-time players to mix into games. So far, so good, Thornwell says.
''It's been good,'' he said. ''Everybody came in focused.''
South Carolina played a dozen people, 10 of them getting 10 minutes or more. Plan on it being the norm this season, according to South Carolina coach Frank Martin. ''This team has depth like I haven't had since I've been here,'' he said.
That showed against Holy Cross (0-1), which was eventually worn down by South Carolina's height and athleticism.
The Crusaders, who played in the NCAA Tournament last March, used its Princeton-style offense – coach Bill Carmody used to coach at the Ivy League school – of cuts and backdoor layups to get within 29-24 on Matt Husek's basket with 7:09 left in the half. That's when the Gamecocks took off on a 15-5 run over the next six minutes to push its lead to 44-29. Thornwell opened the surge with a basket and closed it with a 3-pointer.
''We needed that momentum shift,'' Gamecocks guard PJ Dozier said.
The Crusaders never got closer than 12 points the rest of the way.
''I don't like losing by 30,'' Carmody said. ''It's hard to sit here and call it part of process. Our guys hurt after losing this one.''
Dozier had 15 points for South Carolina, which opened 2-0 for a second straight season and the third time in Martin's five years.
Robert Champion led Holy Cross with 18 points.
Holy Cross stunned college basketball last March, winning the Patriot League tournament and earning an automatic NCAA bid despite a 10-19 regular season. The Crusaders went on to a First Four matchup win over Southern for the school's first Big Dance win since 1953. Holy Cross will try and build on that success with five of their top six scorers returning from a year ago.
South Carolina looked athletic and active in putting away Holy Cross over the final 30 minutes. The trick for coach Frank Martin will be maintaining that level while blending the young players into the mix. They'll get that chance the next 10 days with three more games, all at home.
South Carolina guard Rakym Felder saw his first college action, less than a month after he was arrested for assault among other charges. Felder played 14 minutes and finished with eight points, swishing both of his three-point attempts. Martin said he had talked with athletic director Ray Tanner, vouching for Felder's character. ''Ra Felder played because it's my decision that he has accepted everything that came his way for his mistake,'' Martin said.
''He's a beautiful kid, not a good kid, a beautiful kid,'' Martin continued.
Martin was concerned that his team would not make the necessary defensive adjustments in going from Louisiana Tech's more up-tempo offense to Holy Cross' deliberate attack. He needn't have worried. The Gamecocks held Holy Cross under 40-percent shooting for the game and to just 25 percent (5 of 20) from behind the arc.
The Gamecocks shot 58.7 percent, going 27 of 46 from the field. That touch continued from way outside and at the line: South Carolina made 12 of its 24 3-pointers and 15 of 16 foul shots.
Holy Cross travels to play its only other regular-season Power 5 opponent at Syracuse on Tuesday night.
South Carolina continues its five-game home stretch to start the season, facing Monmouth on Tuesday night.
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