South Carolina records first NCAA “Elite Eight” advancement

It has been 44 seasons since South Carolina has appeared in a NCAA regional and the seventh-seeded Gamecocks won their first game ever in the “Sweet 16” Friday by posting a 70-50 win over third-seeded Baylor in an East Region game at Madison Square Garden in New York.

The Gamecocks (Southeastern Conference, 25-10), who are scheduled to compete in the 2017 Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off next November, will now play the winner of the Florida/Wisconsin contest for a spot in next week’s “final four” in Glendale, Ariz.

With a win over Baylor, South Carolina tied the school record for the most wins in a season. The Gamecocks also won 25 contests during the 1969-1970 and 2015-2016 seasons.

In posting their third NCAA win this month, the Gamecocks held an opponent to 50 or few points in a game for the fifth time this season. Baylor (Big 12, 27-8) entered the game averaging 73.5 points per game and finished with their lowest offensive output of the season. Six of eight Bear setbacks this season were by six points or less. West Virginia defeated Baylor 89-68 a day after (January 10) the Waco school had claimed the No. 1 ranking in the country.

Underclassmen DJ Dozier (sophomore, 12 points), Chris Silva (sophomore, 12) and Rakym Felder (freshman, 9) combined for 33 points, 17 rebounds, four assists, four steals and two blocked shots. As sophomores, Dozier and Silva start for the Gamecocks. Felder is a top reserve.

The Gamecocks, who had lost five of seven games entering the NCAA tournament, have now won three-straight games starting with victories last weekend over 10th-seeded Marquette (93-73) and second-seeded Duke (88-81) in Greenville, S. C.

South Carolina is the last of three schools scheduled to compete in the 2017 Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off still participating in the 2017 NCAA tournament. The other two NCAA teams – Florida State (Atlantic Coast, 26-9) and Iowa State (Big 12, 24-11) – were eliminated last weekend.

Boise State (Mountain West Conference, 20-12) and Illinois State (Missouri Valley, 28-7), two other 2017 Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off participants, played in the 2017 NIT and each split a pair of games. With five schools posting 20 or more wins this season, the combined record for the eight teams scheduled for the 2017 Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off is 169-99 (63.1 percent).

The 2017 Tire Pros Puerto Rico Tip-Off is scheduled for November 16, 17 and 19 in San Juan. Other schools competing in the three-day, 12-game bracketed in-season tournament will be Tulsa (American Athletic, 15-17), UTEP (Conference USA, 15-17) and Western Michigan (Mid-American, 16-16).