- Associated Press - Friday, November 18, 2016

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Sindarius Thornwell scored 22 points and South Carolina cruised to a 92-50 victory over South Carolina State on Friday night.

Playing their fourth game in eight days, the Gamecocks (4-0) took control of the game early against their neighbors from nearby Orangeburg.

“It was good to see us playing active on the glass, at the rim,” said USC coach Frank Martin. “That was one thing I had been a little disappointed in with our team after the first three games. I didn’t think we were rebounding the ball any where near as good as we needed to on either side of the floor.”

The Gamecocks held a 47-24 rebounding advantage with forwards Maik Kotsar and Chris Silva combining for 15 rebounds.

The Bulldogs (1-2) attempted to press South Carolina early. The tactic didn’t work, however, as the Gamecocks out-muscled their opponents inside while also making long-range jumpers.

Kotsar got the Gamecocks off to a quick start, scoring eight of his 15 points in the first 10 minutes. After that Thornwell, a preseason first team All-SEC pick, took over. He had 16 in the first half.

USC’s lead consistently increased. It took a 50-25 advantage at halftime and didn’t let up when it returned.

The Gamecocks connected on 33 of their 65 shots (51 percent), while limiting South Carolina State to 16 of 52 (31 percent).

South Carolina’s pressure defense proved a bit too much for the Bulldogs.

“We pressured them, made them, made them try to score from half-court,” said Thornwell. “We didn’t let them get into what they wanted to run. It’s hard when you have to score from half-court rather than the 3-point line. It’s better for our defense because it forced them into bad shots.”

Eric Eaves, a Columbia native, led South Carolina State in scoring with 16.

The Gamecocks ability to push South Carolina State out of its comfort zone, offensively, was expected by Bulldogs coach Murray Garvin.

“The main stat that jumps out to me is the 30 second chance points,” said Garvin. “South Carolina had more offensive rebounds, it was 17 to 8 on the offensive glass. I really thought the second chance points, also the points off turnovers, was the difference in the game.”

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina State: The Bulldogs never got on track, mostly due to inconsistent shooting. They connected on just 16 of 52 of their field goal attempts (31 percent).

South Carolina: With most of their experience in the backcourt, the Gamecocks continued to work on improving their inside play. Kotsar was impressive, making all seven of his shots and grabbing eight rebounds with two blocks. Silva, despite picking up two early fouls, scored 11 points and pulled down seven rebounds.

“The game is not perfect,” Martin said. “You make mistakes. What you can’t do is, when you make a mistake, give up on a play. I thought we were a lot more active today on the glass, defensively.”

STILL SEARCHING

South Carolina State has to find a way to get better shots for Eaves, its leading scorer. Although he led the Bulldogs, USC made it difficult. He was also the only regular that hit more than 50 percent if his shots.

“We told out basketball team that’s what we expect this year, especially against the high major opponents,” Garvin said. “They’re bigger, stronger, faster. I’ve got a lot of new guys in our program and this is the second time they’ve played against this kind of athleticism.

“South Carolina, to me, is one of the better defensive teams we’ve faced. It wasn’t anything that surprised us. We just couldn’t do anything about it.”

UP NEXT

South Carolina State returns to action Tuesday when it travels north to take on Syracuse in another encounter that is part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational.

South Carolina hosts Michigan on Wednesday.

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