The trip to paradise was well worth it for Frank Martin and South Carolina. Monday night's 83-75 win over Tulsa in the finals of the 2015 Paradise Jam secured a championship for the Gamecocks.
This is the second crown for Martin during his time in Columbia. In 2012, his USC team won the 2012 Hoops for Hope Classic in Puerto Vallarata, Mexico. In 2015, his team trailed for all of 36 seconds in a three-game tournament sweep in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Facing a veteran Tulsa team in the championship round, the Gamecocks were hot from the field for the second consecutive game. South Carolina jumped out to a 12-2 lead in the first three minutes of play. The Golden Hurricanes quickly delivered a 6-0 surge to make it a 12-8 ballgame. USC found its touch once again and exploded for a 17-4 run. Leading 29-12 through the first 12 minutes, South Carolina begin the game shooting 11-of-16 from the field, including 4-of-4 from three-point range.
Tulsa reduced USC's lead to single-digits heading into the break but Martin's team would hit four consecutive shots out of halftime to put their lead at 14 just three minutes into the second half. The Golden Hurricanes would do their best to make this a game. Tulsa went on a 14-4 run, expedited by 15 second-half points from Shaquille Harrison. James Woodard converted a three-point play with 2:30 to play to make Tulsa's deficit seven. Minutes later, Woodard hit two free throws to make USC's lead just five with 34 seconds left to play.
South Carolina found their clutch gene down the stretch, hitting 9-of-10 from the free throw line, including 3-of-4 free ones after Woodard cut their lead to five.
For the second consecutive game, South Carolina had five players score in double-figures as the Gamecocks shot 50 percent from three-point range again. USC has now scored at least 80 points in four of their first five games this season. Last year, the Gamecocks didn't earn their fourth 80-point game until the 28th game of the season (Feb. 28).
Sindarius Thornwell was named the 2015 Paradise Jam MVP and was named to the All-Tournament team. Mindaugas Kacinas joined the junior as an All-Tournament honoree as well.
With the win, South Carolina is 5-0 for the first time since the 2003-04 season. That team would began the year 8-0 - and make the NCAA Tournament.