Thornwell Scores 28 Points, USC Wins at Mississippi St., 77-73

STARKVILLE, Miss. (USC SID) — No. 19/16 South Carolina (20-5, 10-2 SEC) notched its 20th win of the season Saturday night after topping Mississippi State (14-10, 5-7 SEC) on the road in conference play. With the victory, the Gamecocks remain tied for first in the SEC with No. 15/12 Kentucky and No. 17/17 Florida. Senior Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 28 points for his 10th 20-plus outing of the season.

Thornwell, who was coming off a career-high 44 points vs. Alabama, started the game 4-for-4 (2-for-2 from 3) with 10 points as Carolina jumped out to a 10-2 lead, forcing a timeout by Bulldogs head coach Ben Howland with 17:02 to go. The Gamecocks remained in front 12-5 at the first media timeout with 15:11 left in the opening half.

A 6-2 run by Mississippi State trimmed Carolina’s lead to 14-11 at the next media timeout with 11:26 left. Thornwell’s third 3 of the game snapped an 0-for-7 field goal draught for the Gamecocks and put them ahead 17-14. The Bulldogs grabbed their first lead of the game, 20-17, after capping a 15-3 run with a 3 just before the under eight media timeout with 7:52 on the clock.

Mississippi State’s seventh 3-pointer of the first half gave them its biggest lead, 31-24, forcing a timeout by head coach Frank Martin with 3:21 left.

Carolina ended the half on a 12-5 run out of the timeout. Thornwell found senior Justin McKie in the corner on the Gamecocks’ final possession, and McKie knocked down a 3 as time expired to tie the score 36-36 at the half.

Thornwell led all scorers with 19 points in the first half after going 6-for-10 from the field and 3-for-4 from behind the arc. Carolina shot 12-for-27 (44 percent) from the floor and the Bulldogs shot 13-for-25 (52 percent) in the first half. Both teams shot it extremely well from deep, as the Gamecocks were 5-for-10 (50 percent) from 3 and Mississippi State was 8-for-15 (53 percent).

Carolina started the second half on a 7-0 run to push in front 43-36. The Bulldogs clawed back within two, 46-44, at the first media timeout of the second half with 15:41 left. The Gamecocks remained in front, 54-51, at the under 12 media timeout with 10:56 to go in the ballgame.

Mississippi State grabbed its first lead of the second half, 56-54, after a 3 by Xavian Stapleton with 9:36 on the clock. Carolina answered to take the lead back, 59-58, at the under 8 media timeout with 7:38 left after an and-1 by sophomore Chris Silva and a layup by McKie.

The Bulldogs then retook the lead, 64-63, but the Gamecocks responded again after a 3 by senior Duane Notice and a layup by freshman Maik Kotsar with 3:31 to go. A basket by Thornwell put Carolina up 72-64 with 2:52 left, matching the team’s biggest lead of the game.

The Lancaster, S.C., native, took over and scored the team’s final seven points to propel the Gamecocks to the 77-73 road win. Silva (15) and Kotsar (10) joined Thornwell in double figures. After a strong first half from behind the arc, Carolina held the Bulldogs to 25 percent (3-for-12) shooting from 3 in the second half. The Gamecocks shot 56 percent (15-for-27) in the second half.

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