The South Carolina Gamecocks are dancing longer than they've ever danced before.
Led by Sindarius Thornwell's 24 points, the seventh-seeded Gamecocks cruised past No. 3 Baylor with a 70-50 victory on Friday to advance to the Elite Eight for the first time in the program's 109-year history.
In South Carolina's eight previous NCAA Tournament appearances, the Gamecocks won a total of four games. Thornwell, the SEC's player of the year, can help South Carolina equal its previous win total if the Gamecocks can beat the Wisconsin-Florida winner on Sunday.
South Carolina had not won a single tournament game since 1973, when the Gamecocks reached the Sweet 16. Before beating Baylor, the Gamecocks got a huge program victory with an upset of No. 2 Duke.
Here are three reasonsSouth Carolina was able toupset Baylor:
1. Thornwell took over from the start—Thornwell showed why he was the best player in the SEC and is stating a case for the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player. He scored 24 points against Baylor after registering 53 points in South Carolina's first two tourney victories. Thornwell, who had 13 points at halftime as the Gamecocks built a 37-22 lead, finished with six rebounds, two assists and even added a couple of blocked shots and two steals.
2. Defense, defense, defense — The Gamecocks forced 16 Baylor turnovers and stifled a Bears offense that averaged 74 points per game. Baylor scored 91 points in its win over New Mexico State and then had 82 against Southern Cal, but could not find any rhythm against the East Coast USC. Baylor shot 30.4percent from the floor and made just three of 13attempts from behind the 3-point line.
South Carolina had seven steals and blocked six Baylor shots and the end result was never really in doubt. The Gamecocks won by 20 points despite taking two deliberate shot-clock violations in the final minute.
"We defended all year," South Carolina coach Frank Martin told TBS. "That's what we do and take a lot of pride in it."
3. Dominance inside— South Carolina controlled the glass, out-rebounding Baylor 41 to 36. Chris Silva led the Gamecocks with seven boards to go with 12 points, but it was a balanced effort as each starter grabbed at least five rebounds.
If the Gamecocks are going to advance to the Final Four, they'll need another solid defensive effort against a team in either Wisconsin or Florida that is also known for playing great defense. Don't expect a lot of points on Sunday.