South Carolina tops Vermont to stay unbeaten
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said he’d been worried about Thursday’s home game against Vermont for days. He was concerned of a letdown, with his Gamecocks coming off back-to-back wins over Michigan and Syracuse and entering the AP Poll this week at No. 20.
It turned out that he didn’t have anything to worry about.
Sophomore guard P.J. Dozier scored 21 points, and senior guard Sindarius Thornwell had a big all-around game, helping South Carolina remain unbeaten with a 68-50 win over Vermont on Thursday at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Thornwell finished with 11 points, five rebounds and a career-high nine assists. Sophomore Chris Silva added 12 points for the Gamecocks, who improved to 7-0.
“I‘m glad this game is over with,” Martin told reporters after the win. “This game has had me uptight for three days, because they’re good and very physical. I just had a feeling that, because of the success of the last couple of games against name teams that we weren’t going to be as clean as we needed to play against them”
Freshman forward Anthony Lamb led the Catamounts (6-3) with 12 points. Lamb was the only Vermont forward to finish in double figures.
The Gamecocks held both Michigan and Syracuse to 46 and 50 points, respectively. They kept the momentum on both ends of the court and got off to a red-hot start in Thursday’s game against Vermont.
Dozier opened the game with a 3-pointer and scored five straight points late in the first half to help the Gamecocks take a 43-32 lead into intermission. Dozier and Silva each had 12 points in the first half to lead a blistering South Carolina offense that shot 60.7 percent from the floor.
“Just playing within the offense, making offense out of defense and having an aggressive mentality,” Dozier told reporters.
Martin praised Dozier’s effort, especially on the defensive end, and said the sophomore has matured dramatically since last season.
“Last year, all he did was turn the ball over and wouldn’t guard anybody, and was in foul trouble every game,” Martin said. “This year, he’s playing real hard and he’s defending and he’s never in foul trouble. And, last time I checked ... have you seen any of those turnovers where he just throws it to the other guy at the top of the key so he can dunk it at the other basket? No. So, all of a sudden, he’s learned to play hard. He’s better defensively. He is so much better defensively, when it comes to guarding, yet he’s never in foul trouble. It’s unbelievable how that works.”
Despite the hot shooting in the first half, Martin said he was disappointed in his team’s overall demeanor and expressed his displeasure at halftime.
“I challenged them at halftime. I was extremely upset,” Martin said “I wasn’t happy at all, the whole game, for 40 minutes. People like to say I‘m negative, but I wasn’t very positive today during those timeouts. I didn’t think our mindset was good today. They practiced OK for the last couple of days, but for whatever reason, today, our mindset wasn’t good today ... I‘m glad our guys competed at a real high-level and were able to scrap out a win against a real good basketball team.”
South Carolina came out of halftime just as hot and opened the second half with a 13-1 run to build a 23-point lead. The Gamecocks maintained a 20-plus-point lead for the majority of the second half and were never seriously challenged.
Vermont shot just 35.3 percent from the floor.
South Carolina won its first 15 games last season en route to a school-record 24 wins, but was left out of the NCAA tournament. The Gamecocks have a difficult three-week stretch in December that includes games against Seton Hall, Clemson and Memphis, before opening SEC play at Georgia on Jan. 4.
South Carolina hosts Florida International on Sunday.
Vermont will look to bounce back against Dartmouth on Dec. 7.
NOTES: South Carolina entered the night as one of 19 unbeaten teams in the nation. ... Vermont came into the game ranked in the top 25 in the country in both assists and rebounds. ... Thursday’s game was only the second meeting between South Carolina and Vermont. The two schools also met in 1979, with the Gamecocks pulling out a 66-65 win.