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South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell got his mojo back in second half

UPDATED: Sat., April 1, 2017, 8:54 p.m.

GLENDALE, Ariz. – As Sindarius Thornwell goes, so goes South Carolina. The senior guard’s importance to his team was especially obvious during Gonzaga’s 77-73 Final Four win on Saturday.

The Gamecocks are not a notoriously dangerous offensive team, but Thornwell is a deadly offensive player. The SEC Player of the Year averaged 21.6 points per game this season and none of his teammates averaged more than 13.6.

Thornwell scored five fairly forgettable points in the first half – two free throws and a 3-pointer that took the scenic route into the basket, sightseeing every part of the cylinder. Thornwell credited GU’s defensive strategy.

“They just crowd the paint,” he said. “My drive, they forced me to pass it out on my drives. And just protecting the rim real well.”

While his teammates gamely tried to match GU’s offensive production, they trailed 45-36 at the half. It could have been more if Silas Melson’s deep 3-pointer had been squeezed off a split-second sooner.

Conditions were not ripe for success for Thornwell, who missed USC’s Wednesday practice with an illness. There were not many breathers to be had in the first half of Saturday’s game, thanks to a lack of whistles.

In theory, there should be a media timeout every 4 minutes or so, triggered by deadballs. But there were no deadballs from 15:54 left in the first half until there was just 9:18 left, and again from 7:32 until 1:35. Thornwell led USC with 18 first-half minutes.

Thornwell insisted his illness was not a factor, although he admitted he was a little tired.

“I think the first half I was a little fatigued,” Thornwell said. “But that’s still not an excuse for anything. I was fine. I was fine the whole game.”

Thornwell was better in the second half, scoring 10 points on 3-of-7 shooting and collecting three rebounds. He swished a 3-pointer during USC’s 16-0 run to briefly take the lead in the second half, and made 3 of 4 free throws, the miss coming intentionally to have a chance at an extra shot in the last seconds.

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