The first meeting pitting two Hispanic-American coaches was historical in its own right. The result proved memorable as well for the Gamecocks. South Carolina outdueled South Florida 81-63 on Saturday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena.
USC's Frank Martin and USF's Orlando Antigua, friends and people of Hispanic descent, met in this weekend's game that is believed to be the first game where two Hispanic-American college coaches have played against one another.
Martin's win means his team has now matched the program's best start to a season since 2003 - the last year they made the NCAA Tournament.
The Gamecocks began the game completely en fuego. Sindarius Thornwell scored the first five points of the game, beginning a 16-2 start for South Carolina before USF called a timeout. Three turnovers from the Bulls fueled the run as did fantastic ball movement and pinpoint accuracy from the Gamecocks. Five Gamecocks scored, going 7-of-9 from the field before Antigua called his timeout.
Out of the break, USF broke out a zone defense to slow the game down versus South Carolina's offensive attack. It didn't help. Thornwell and Duane Notice both connected on three-pointers to shoot the Bulls out of their zone. USC scored eight straight points out of the timeout, pushing their lead to 24-2. South Florida finally scored their second basket of the game at the 12:02 mark in the first half, snapping a 19-0 Gamecock run. Martin's team would take a 53-22 lead into halftime after shooting 60 percent from the field. During the Gamecocks' 24-2 start, USC shot 82 percent from the floor.
Martin credited the surge to a spirited practice his team held on Friday afternoon. With his first senior class taking the reins, Martin detailed how his team's leaders took control of the practice, raising the intensity. Martin simply said that his team was playing like they had practiced in the first half.
The second half proved less than satisfying for Martin and his team. South Florida outscored South Carolina 41-28 after the break. The Bulls ran a full court press in the second half. While it gave the Gamecocks several easy baskets, it also forced USC into several bouts of turnovers.
South Florida carved South Carolina's 31-point halftime lead to just 14 in the midst of a 17-2 USF run. Chris Silva would follow with a huge block that helped set-up a three-point play on the other end and USC's lead rose to 20 in just a short time.
USC's encouraging ball movement had faded and the Gamecocks were settling, and missing, three-point shots early on in the shot clock. To Martin's dismay, the Bulls were even out-rebounding the Gamecocks, leading to valuable second-chance opportunities. South Florida grabbed 20 offensive rebounds for the game and Antigua's squad was able to dwindle the lead down to 14 for a second time but USC outlasted the Bulls in the end.
Michael Carrera led the way with 19 points, shooting 3-of-6 from behind the arc. Thornwell and Notice scored 15 points apiece, fueling two big USC runs in the game. Freshman guard P.J. Dozier matched his career-high of 12 points this afternoon as well.
The Gamecocks are set to have a 10-day break to finish their first semester exams. Their next game will be against Drexel on Dec. 15 at Colonial Life Arena. South Carolina hasn't started a season 9-0 since 1970 - the year they won the ACC title. (yes, ACC)