2017 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball: Duke vs. South Carolina

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During the 2017 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Championship, Duke and South Carolina met on March 19th 2017 in the Bon Secours Wellness Arena for the round of 32. South Carolina defeated Duke in the match by a score of 88-81 to advance to the round of 16.

Teams' 2016-17 seasons


In the 2016-17 season, the Duke men's basketball team won 11 out of their 18 ACC conference matches. The Blue Devils also won the ACC championship after beating Clemson (79-72), Louisville (81-77), North Carolina (93-83), and Notre Dame (79-69). In the NCAA tournament, they won against Troy (87-65) in the first round but lost to South Carolina (88-81) in the second round.[1]

Table 1. 2016-17 statistics for the Duke men's basketball team[2]
FG Pct 3FG Pct PPG Rebounds per game Turnovers per game
0.475 0.379 80.6 36.2 11.4

In the 2016-17 season, the Duke men's basketball team consisted of 16 players. Notable players in the team include Luke Kennard, Jayson Tatum, Grayson Allen, Frank Jackson, and Amile Jefferson.[3]

Table 2. 2016-17 statistics for key Duke men's basketball team players[1]
FGM-FGA FG Pct 3FG-FGA 3FG Pct Avg. reb Avg. pts
Luke Kennard 237-485 0.489 88-201 0.438 5.1 19.5
Jayson Tatum 165-365 0.452 40-117 0.342 7.3 16.8
Grayson Allen 141-357 0.395 81-222 0.365 3.7 14.5
Frank Jackson 133-281 0.473 51-129 0.395 2.5 10.9
Amile Jefferson 146-238 0.613 0-0 0.000 8.4 10.9

South Carolina

In the 2016-17 season, the South Carolina men’s basketball team won 12 out of their 18 SEC conference matches. In the SEC tournament held in Nashville, Tennessee, it was eliminated in the first game following its loss to Alabama (53-64). In the NCAA tournament, they won against Marquette (93-73) in the first round, Duke (88-81) in the second round, Baylor (70-50) in the Sweet Sixteen, and Florida (77-70) in the Elite Eight, but finally lost to Gonzaga (73-77) in the Final Four.[4]

Table 3. 2016-17 statistics for the South Carolina men's basketball team[4]
FG Pct 3FG Pct PPG Rebounds per game Turnovers per game
0.475 0.379 80.6 36.2 11.4

In the 2016-17 season, the South Carolina men's basketball team consisted of 18 players. Notable players on the team include Sindarius Thornwell, PJ Dozier, Chris Silva, Duane Notice, and Maik Kotsar.[5]

Table 4. 2016-17 statistics for key South Carolina men's basketball team players[4]
FGM-FGA FG Pct 3FG-FGA 3FG Pct Avg. reb Avg. pts
Sindarius Thornwell 195-439 0.444 58-148 0.392 7.1 21.4
PJ Dozier 191-469 0.407 42-141 0.298 4.8 13.9
Chris Silva 122-233 0.524 0-1 0.000 6.1 10.2
Duane Notice 122-311 0.392 69-292 0.342 2.5 10.2
Maik Kotsar 97-198 0.490 0-0 0.000 4.8 5.8


First half

The first half of the game proceeded at a very slow pace, due to the high number of missed field goals, including layups, and 2- and 3-point jumpers. On top of the low-accuracy shooting, both teams underwent numerous instances of turnovers and rebounds, which seldom led to points. As a result, the first half suffered from multiple segments of points stagnation during which neither team was able to score. For instance, it took about 4 minutes to reach a point where both teams had scored 4 points each, and for both teams, 2 of the 4 points were free throws.[6] Also, following Frank Jackson's 3-pointer at 9:24, the score remained South Carolina Gamecocks 14:21 Duke until another 3-pointer by Matt Jones at 13:03.[6] Like so, the first half was summarized by long periods of points stagnation, and the majority of the scored points came from free throws following fouls.

Second half

The second half of the game was an offensive explosion by South Carolina, as they scored 65 points en route to victory. At the start of the second half, they trailed Duke by 7 points, but a dunk by Chris Sliva with 15:24 remaining allowed South Carolina to pull ahead with a score of 39:38.[6] Luke Kennard tried to maintainDuke's momentum by hitting a  3-pointer to pull Duke back into the lead with a score of 39:41.[6] However, Sindarius Thornwell quickly answered back with a 3-pointer of his own to put South Carolina back on top.[6] From then on, South Carolina's tight defense refused to allow Duke to get any momentum by forcing multiple missed shots, steals and turnovers. With 6.36 remaining and the score at 64:55, South Carolina was now fully in control.[6] As the clock was winding down, Duke began to increasingly intentional foul but South Carolina held their nerve and sunk the free throws to eventually take the game 88 to 81.

After the match

The South Carolina Gamecocks' upset win against the Duke Blue Devils resulted in the best ever March Madness tournament run in the school's history.[7] To start off their winning streak, South Carolina, who were ranked as the 7th seed in the East division, managed to beat Marquette, who were ranked as the 10th seed in the round of 64, by 20 points.[8] This marked the first win by the program since 1973 in the NCAA tournament.[7] Then, after beating Duke in the round of 32, South Carolina continued their impressive post-season run by dominating the 3rd seed Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen.[8] A close win against 4th ranked Florida in the Elite Eight ensured that the Gamecocks were able to clinch the East division of the NCAA tournament and make the trip to Phoenix, again for the first time in the school's history.[9][8] Unfortunately, South Carolina's Cinderella run in the tournament[9] was put to an end by the top-ranked Gonzaga in the Final Four in a close game where the Gamecocks eventually lost by 4 points.

The magical run of the South Carolina men's basketball team in the postseason was made even more special by the fact that the women's basketball team was also making a magical run.[9][10] They eventually won the school’s first championship in the 2017 NCAA Tournament, after beating Mississippi State in the final.[10][9]

Commentary about the game

After the game ended with the win going to the underdog, many sports writers and websites attempted to come up with faults in the Blue Devils' strategies that led to their premature exit out of the 2017 NCAA tournament. One of the most convincing reasons is that Duke's offense lacked precision and strength, which proved fatal especially in face of the Gamecocks’ well-known immaculate defensive front.[11] This claim seems to be substantiated by statistics. While the Blue Devils averaged 47.5% accuracy in field goals throughout the 2016-17 season,[1] they came short in the South Carolina game at 41.5%, with only 22 out of 53 total attempts making it into the basket.[6] Also, compared to the season average of 11.4 turnovers per game,[1] Duke experienced 18 turnovers in this game,[6] which numerically demonstrates that Duke was unable to maintain controlled possession over the ball. The Gamecocks, on the other hand, performed in a way that was coherent with their season statistics for the most part.[9] They made 42.9% of the field goal attempts[6] (season average: 42%[4]) and had only 11 turnovers[6] (season average: 13.0[4]). It can be concluded that the Gamecocks showed their usual solid defense, and with their "sloppy" play, the Blue Devils were unable to overcome the defensive pressures, even to perform as well as their season average in many regards.[9]

Another interpretation of the game attributes the loss to Luke Kennard's below-average performance.[11] In the 2016-17 season, Kennard emerged as one of the strongest players on the team, which relied heavily on him in almost every game of the season. However, as one of the five starting players, he scored only a mere 11 points[6] (season average: 19.5[1]) with only one successful three-pointer out of four attempts[6] (season average: 43.8%[1]). As Duke's offensive strategies that most likely involved Kennard as a core component failed, as evidenced by the aforementioned statistics, it was unable to penetrate South Carolina's minute defense.[9]

Thankfully, Grayson Allen, who was not a starting 5, stepped in to score 20 points in total,[6] which was well above his season average of 14.5;[1] however, his performance alone was not sufficient to salvage the frequent turnovers Duke faced.[9]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 "Duke Combined Team Statistics (as of Mar 20, 2017)". http://www1.nmnathletics.com/fls/4200/stats/2016-17/basketball-m/Season_Stats.pdf?SPSID=22724&SPID=1845&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=4200&_ga=1.116327558.1866951236.1491510844. 
  2. "Men's Basketball - Schedule/Results - Duke University Blue Devils | Official Athletics Site - GoDuke.com". http://www.goduke.com/SportSelect.dbml?SPID=1845&SPSID=22726. 
  3. "2016-17 DUKE BASKETBALL ROSTERS". http://www.goduke.com/fls/4200/web-docs/2016-17_MBB_Roster.pdf?SPSID=22724&SPID=1845&DB_LANG=C&DB_OEM_ID=4200. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 "South Carolina Combined Team Statistics (as of Apr 01, 2017)". http://grfx.cstv.com/photos/schools/scar/sports/m-baskbl/auto_pdf/2016-17/stats/season_stats.pdf. 
  5. "Official Men's Basketball Roster University of South Carolina Official Athletic Site" (in en). http://www.gamecocksonline.com/sports/m-baskbl/mtt/scar-m-baskbl-mtt.html. 
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 "South Carolina vs. Duke - Play-By-Play - March 19, 2017 - ESPN". http://www.espn.com/mens-college-basketball/playbyplay?gameId=400947225. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 "March Madness: The State of South Carolina seeing unprecedented success" (in en). NCAA.com. 2017-03-29. http://www.ncaa.com/news/basketball-men/article/2017-03-29/march-madness-state-south-carolina-seeing-unprecedented. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "NCAA Bracket". http://i.turner.ncaa.com/sites/default/files/external/printable-bracket/bracket-ncaa.pdf. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 9.6 9.7 "Blog". http://jihwanandedeline92.weebly.com/. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 "Espn Women's college basketball". http://www.espn.com/womens-college-basketball/team/schedule/_/id/2579. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Three reasons Duke lost to South Carolina in upset of 2017 NCAA Tournament so far". Sporting News. 2017-03-19. http://www.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/news/ncaa-tournament-2017-three-reasons-no-2-duke-lost-to-no-7-south-carolina/e20vu4jmzvf71af5k9p9fzbso. 

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