After one very unimpressive half of basketball, No. 2 seed South Carolina (24-10) trailed by double digits early in the second half against No. 2 seed Duke (28-9) Sunday night.
But the Gamecocks finally came alive, reaching the Sweet Sixteen for the first time in 44 years.
Overcome by one of the biggest wins the program’s history, South Carolina players celebrated with their fans when it was over.
Duke was attempting to reach the round of 16 for the sixth time in eight seasons, but were let down by Luke Kennard’s poor shooting and foul trouble late.
South Carolina’s punishing defense didn’t help matters either. The Blue Devils tied a season high with 18 turnovers.
It sounded like typical coach hyperbole when Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski said the Gamecocks would be the best defensive team his club has faced this season.
That proved out in the first half as the Blue Devils were continually disrupted by South Carolina’s pressure and coughed the ball up 13 times after averaging only 11 turnovers a game this season.
Duke did its share to thwart the Gamecocks on defense, too, holding South Carolina to 7-of-35 shooting the first 20 minutes. The Gamecocks missed 20 of their last 22 shots to fall behind 30-23 at the break.
Next up is the East Regional at Madison Square Garden where the Gamecocks will face third-seeded Baylor, an 82-78 winner over Southern Cal earlier Sunday.