FAYETTEVILLE - The SEC’s hottest player representing one of the SEC’s three best teams awaits the Arkansas on Wednesday night on the road.
For coach Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks, 20-5 overall and 10-2 in the SEC as are the Kentucky Wildcats and Florida Gators with whom the Gamecocks share first in the SEC, senior 6-6 guard Sindarius Thornwell was named the SEC Player of the Week Monday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala.
Thornwell bears stats bound to open Arkansas eyes as coach Mike Anderson’s SEC fourth place Razorbacks, 18-7, 7-5, and Gamecocks, ranked 21st and 19th respectively in the Associated Press and Coaches polls, prep for Wednesday’s 5:30 p.m. (CST) SEC game televised by the SEC Network at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
Averaging 20.5 points and 7.5 after missing Carolina’s first six games while under disciplinary suspension, Thornwell has made up for lost time. Especially lately. The SEC honored Thornwell for averaging 36 points 12.5 rebounds and three assists in the Gamecocks’ two games last week, a 90-86 four overtimes loss at Alabama, and a 77-73 victory last Saturday at Mississippi State.
Against Alabama, Thornwell scored a career high 44 points, including making a school record 25 free throws in 33 attempts, and grabbed 21 rebounds.
Against Mississippi State, Thornwell scored 28 points making his 10th game scoring 20 or more points this season.
"Sindarius Thornwell is playing at a high caliber right now," Anderson said at his Monday press conference. "The kid’s playing awful well."
Seems like it must take a special game plan just to slow him down.
"We’ll see," Anderson said. "Not many people have stopped him so far. He’s a senior and he’s been through the wars. We’ve seen him kind of grow over the four years and now you see him playing some of his best basketball."
Thornwell’s best is more than any one Razorback can handle.
"We’re going to have to do it by committee," Anderson said. "We’re going to have to keep him off the boards ,certainly a tremendous rebounder. He’s a tough matchup because he can put it on the floor. He can shoot the basketball. He’s their go-to guy."
But if the Hogs go hard on Thornwell so well even virtually to take him out of the game, the Gamecocks know they can survived. After all they went 6-0 without him while he was suspended.
Sophomore 6-6 guard PJ Dozier, the Gamecocks’ second-leading scorer averaging 14.0 points, and senior 6-2 guard Duane Notice, averaging 10.2 point as the Gamecocks’ third-leading scorer, commanded the Gamecocks in Thornwell’s early-season absence, Anderson said and received big up front help from 6-9 forward Charles Silva, 9.8 pants and 5.8 rebounds
"They not only got Thornwell, but you got Dozier," Anderson said. "You got Silva, whose playing really, really well, and of course Notice. This team is much deeper than they were last year. This is one of those teams that Frank has built over the years, and they’ve been tested. Last year they were left out of the tournament and I’m sure they’re determination is to make sure they not only get in the tournament but be a tremendous participant in it."
Arkansas’ chances to join current SEC leaders South Carolina, Florida and Kentucky representing the SEC in the NCAA Tournament obviously would enhance if the Hogs could upend the Gamecocks in Columbia.
"Obviously going against a ranked opponent, South Carolina, it gives us a tremendous opportunity," Anderson said. "A great challenge but a great opportunity and hopefully we can go in there and play some of our best basketball. Because I still don’t think we have played our best basketball yet."