CHARLESTON, S.C. - An opportunistic defense would drive the South Carolina men's basketball team to a win over Cornell on the opening night of the Charleston Classic, held at TD Arena. The Gamecocks (2-1) forced 17 turnovers en route to a 69-45 win, holding the Big Red (2-2) to 27 percent shooting from the field.
Sindarius Thornwell led the team with 14 points despite playing just six minutes of the second half. Mindaugas Kacinas pulled down 11 rebounds to go with 10 points for the team's first double-double of the season and his partner on the post Laimonas Chatkevicius added eight points and seven boards off the bench. Every player on the active roster saw time on the floor, with ten scoring at least two points.
After an even start to the game, Carolina went on a 13-0 run from the 15:20 mark until just under ten minute remaining to open up a 22-11 lead. Five different players contributed to the game-changing run. Thornwell led the early charge, scoring 10 of the team's first 12 points before ending the half with 13.
Bench play would be the difference maker in the first 20 minutes, as the Gamecock reserves outscored their Cornell counterparts 15-0. Kacinas and Chatkevicius combined for 10 points and 14 rebounds, and Marcus Stroman pitched in five points and three steals.
Though it would shoot just 36 percent as a team, Carolina carried a 35-21 lead into the break after forcing 13 turnovers and limiting the Big Red to a tiny 30 percent on 7-of-23 shooting. The Gamecocks had averaged just 13 turnovers forced per game in its first two contests of the 2014-15 season coming into Thursday night.
The second half would be no different, as the lead would dip to 13 with 18:49 to play, but a 13-1 run from then until the 13:19 mark set the team back on the right path. The lead would grow to as large as 28 points. The key in the final 20 minutes would be rebounding, as the Gamecocks enjoyed a 23-15 advantage over a Cornell side that shot just 24 percent in the period.