Duke (-7.5) dives into S.C. territory in second round
March 18, 2017 10:35 AM
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GREENVILLE, S.C. -- Duke won't have a problem creating noise in the NCAA Tournament second round.
But given seventh-seeded South Carolina is a hop, skip and a jump from Bon Secours Arena, the Blue Devils are bracing for hostility in a borderline road game at this purported neutral site East Region showdown.
"We like a game with noise," Duke guard Grayson Allen said. "That brings energy. We like playing in buildings where it's loud. It gives everybody on the court energy."
Second-seeded Duke and South Carolina are coming off strong second-half stretches in their tournament openers. Duke topped Troy 87-65 before South Carolina pulled away from Marquette for a 93-73 victory.
The home-state crowd gave South Carolina a boost, something the Gamecocks will be looking for again in the second round.
"It was like nothing else," South Carolina forward Chris Silva said. "Stepping on the court and seeing the stands, the fans -- and all of that, we were just excited. It was just a great feeling."
Duke didn't fare as well as in some past years in road games this season, yet this won't actually be on the Gamecocks' home court. Duke went 3-6 in road games, though the Blue Devils posted a 9-1 record on neutral courts.
"One thing about March is everybody believes they can win," said Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, who's looking to extend his record number of Sweet 16 appearances by a coach to 24.
The Blue Devils, who've won five games in a row, said they can improve on their latest performance.
"That's the goal here now that you're in the tournament is to learn from winning and keep improving because we know in the next round whoever it is we're going to play, they're going to be a really good team," Allen said.
This will be the first NCAA Tournament meeting between the teams, which last played in 2001 as part of the Maui Invitational. Before that, it had been almost 30 years since the teams collided.
For the Gamecocks, this is a dream matchup on the surface.
"They're a storied program, and we understand what a powerhouse they are and what a great program they've built," South Carolina guard Duane Notice said. "We couldn't ask for more. It's a great opportunity."
Duke will have to pay attention to South Carolina senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, the SEC Player of the Year who tallied 29 points in Friday night's game with Marquette.
"We're going to do what we do," Thornwell said. "We're going to come in and play hard. The game still got to be played. We're going to, when the game is tipped, we'll try to do what we do.
"We signed up to put this program in a situation where when it's time to leave we're competing with the best teams in the country."
Perhaps more than the home crowd, South Carolina's on-ball defense could be of concern for Duke. While the Blue Devils are always capable of shooting the lights out from deep, handling intense pressure was a problem occasionally this season.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said he admires what Duke has accomplished, though he has been pumping up South Carolina's stock during the postseason as well.
"I'm a big fan of Coach K, what he does for this game, not just Duke basketball," Martin said. "We need to be real good to compete with a team like Duke."
Duke leads the all-time series with South Carolina by 57-19.
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