Feb. 13, 2014
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - For a kid from the South, snow on the ground is a rare treat. For Sindarius Thornwell, this season's two snow storms have meant strong performances and South Carolina victories.
Thornwell scored 19 points to lead the Gamecocks to a 65-59 victory over Vanderbilt on Thursday in a game delayed because of a winter storm that postponed Wednesday night's regularly-scheduled tipoff.
The only other Southeastern Conference victory for South Carolina (9-15, 2-9) came on another snow day that closed campus back on January 29th. And Thornwell had 19 points in that victory over Texas A&M.
"I don't know what it is about the snow," said Thornwell, a South Carolina native from Lancaster. "Whatever it is, it's working for us."
The Gamecocks will likely have to rely more on the play of their 6-foot-5 freshman guard instead of waiting on Mother Nature to send more snow the rest of the season.
Thornwell has scored in double digits in eight of the Gamecocks' 11 league games. He turned things up when his team needed it with 13 of his points coming in the second half.
"I thought Sindarius Thornwell was by far the best player on the floor," Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings said.
Thornwell's value was seen at the end when Vanderbilt had cut a 13-point lead to 58-52 on Rod Odom's 3-pointer with 2:52 remaining. That's when Thornwell hit a foul shot, then followed with a bucket to give the Gamecocks back some breathing room. He scored six of his team's final seven points.
"When it was win time, Sindarius was there," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
Stallings said he didn't believe his players were affected by the delay or extra time in town. "We're not a program that looks for excuses," he said.
Duane Notice's 3-pointer with 13:59 left put South Carolina ahead for good, 41-38. Thornwell added a 3-pointer moments later for a 44-40 lead and started a 17-5 run as the Gamecocks took control.
Brenton Williams added 14 points for South Carolina and Notice 10.
It was the second straight loss for Vanderbilt (13-10, 5-6).
Kyle Fuller led the Commodores with 20 points. Freshman center Damian Jones had 16 points, 10 rebounds and a career-high seven blocks for Vanderbilt.
The Gamecocks held Vanderbilt's top scorer, reigning SEC player of the week Odom, to 3-of-9 shooting for 10 points, five fewer than his season's average.
South Carolina moved in front 58-45 on Brian Steele's fast-break finish with 3:58 to go. Vanderbilt put together a final charge with seven straight points to draw within 58-52 on Odom's 3-pointer.
But Thornwell added a foul shot and a bucket to restore the big margin and South Carolina closed things out.
"It feels good to come in here smiling," Thornwell said.
The snow-delayed, mid-afternoon game brought a middle-school feel to the 18,000-seat arena. There was no pep band, dance squad or cheerleaders as campus was closed for a second day because of the winter storm. The squeak of sneakers at times was the most prominent sound as the 1,000-or-so fans watched the contest.
The game needed an afternoon start so Vanderbilt could return to Nashville - the Commodores play Saturday afternoon at home - without further weather complications.
Both coaches were antsy to get this started and their teams played that way early on. The action was end-to-end, but so were the misses: South Carolina opened 5-of-14 shooting with just one more field goal than Vanderbilt, which went 4 of 15.
The Gamecocks built a five-point lead early and never gave it up, although the Commodores closed the half with Fuller's driving layup with less than a second left in the half to head to the locker room down 28-27.
Notice, the Gamecocks freshman point guard, struggled in shooting while matched with Fuller a senior. Notice was 1 of 7, although he limited Fuller into a 3-of-11 showing from the field in the opening half.
Odom was held to just two points off two shots from the field. Jones, the 6-foot-10 freshman center, picked up the team's slack with 11 points and four boards the first 20 minutes.
Vanderbilt was looking to rebound from its last game, a disappointing loss to Arkansas.