Thornwell keeps No. 24 Gamecocks perfect with 86-76 win
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Sindarius Thornwell has seen too many tight, physical games go against South Carolina the past two seasons. He's glad the 24th-ranked Gamecocks are now on the winning side.
''It's nice to see,'' Thornwell said Saturday night after the Gamecocks continued their best start in 82 years with an 86-76 victory over Memphis.
Thorwell scored 18 points, and Michael Carrera had 16 points and 11 rebounds.
The Gamecocks are off to their most wins to start a season since the 1933-34 team opened 17-0. South Carolina is one of three remaining undefeateds - No. 3 Oklahoma (12-0) and No. 17 SMU (13-0) are the others - in Division I.
''We don't think much about it,'' Thornwell said. ''We play every game like we're 0-13.''
In this one, the Gamecocks had out outlast a strong, tough Memphis club, which committed a season-high 41 fouls and saw five players foul out. The Tigers (9-4) eventually wore out down the stretch as South Carolina shot a record 63 foul shots and made a program-best 46.
Memphis coach Josh Pastner deferred questions about the fouls. ''I want to keep my mouth shut so I don't get in trouble,'' he said.
The Gamecocks took the lead for good 63-61 with 8:51 left on Mindaugas Kacinas' two foul shots and steadily pulled away from the Tigers.
Things figure to get tougher for the Gamecocks - one of three remaining undefeated teams in Division I - once Southeastern Conference play begins Tuesday night at Auburn. Still, the large crowd at Colonial Life Arena yelled and screamed as the perfect run continued.
Ricky Tarrant Jr. had 20 points for Memphis.
The teams hadn't met since the 2004 NCAA Tournament when a John Calipari-coached Memphis team topped the Gamecocks 59-43 in the opening round. South Carolina hasn't been back to the Big Dance since then and hopes to change that this season.
''I can't get wrapped up in that, I have to stay in the moment, which is to work hard every day,'' South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
Memphis had the bulk and height to match up with the Gamecocks and showed that in first half that was bogged down by 32 combined fouls.
Memphis's Shaq Goodwin and South Carolina's Chris Silva had words beneath the basket before their teammates stepped in to keep the peace.
The Gamecocks used a 9-0 run late in the period to go up 39-33. But Tarrant Jr. hit two 3-pointers - the Tigers had six in the first 20 minutes - in the final 45 seconds to tie things at 42-all going into the break.
Duane Notice had 15 points for South Carolina, going 12 of 12 from the foul line. The Gamecocks went to the free-throw line 63 times in a regulation game that took 2 1/2 hours to play.
Memphis: Tigers coach Josh Pastner is fifth in program history with 157 victories and is two shy of passing Final Four coach Dana Kirk for fourth overall. Pastner's victories are the second most among coaches under 40 years of age with only Shaka Smart's 171 in front.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks struggled against Memphis when the two schools were in the Metro Conference from 1984 until 1991 when South Carolina moved to the SEC. The Tigers were 15-4 over the Gamecocks in that stretch.
Sindarius Thornwell said he was down on the court once in the game near the Memphis bench when he tried to get up but couldn't because some Tigers grabbed at his legs. He laughed about the incident to the media.
''It's good to be in games like that,'' he said, smiling.
BACK IN PLAY
Memphis freshman forward Dedric Lawson returned to action after missing last Tuesday's win over Tulane with an abdominal strain. He finished with Lawson finished with six points and two rebounds before fouling out with 1:10 remaining.
''You could see he was rusty,'' Memphis coach Josh Pastner said.
Memphis' other big man in Shaq Goodwin also fouled out, ending with 13 points and nine rebounds.
Memphis closes out pre-American Athletic Conference play when it faces Nicholls State at home Tuesday night.
South Carolina begins Southeastern Conference play Tuesday night at Auburn.