New York, N.Y. – Entering Friday's game against Baylor, the Gamecocks talked about how physical and dominating the Bears were on defense and in rebounding. South Carolina head coach Frank Martin had mentioned a few times earlier in the season that defensive rebounding was one of the weaknesses for the Gamecocks, so there was concern entering the Sweet 16 matchup.
However, the Gamecock post players collectively put in their best performance of the season, and it was a huge reason for a 20-point win over Baylor that punched a ticket to the Elite Eight.
Baylor entered the game averaging more than eight rebounds per game more than their opponent, but when the buzzer sounded on South Carolina, the Gamecocks held a 40-37 rebounding advantage.
Freshman Maik Kotsar had just two points and fouled out, but Martin was impressed with how he defended Baylor star Johnathan Motley. Kotsar, Chris Silva and even guard Sindarius Thornwell all worked to keep Motley from taking over the game. He still finished around his season average with 18 points and nine rebounds, but several of those points came when the game was in hand.
"I think attacking and effort," Kotsar said of the key to the rebounding success. "Also, we couldn't let Motley get to the glass. Box him out, whether it was me or Chris or some guard, everyone just gave their best to box them out."
Silva finished with 12 points, seven rebounds and two blocks, and was once again able to stay out of foul trouble for the most part. The duo of Silva and Kotsar did a great job leading the charge on the boards.
"He was great defensively," Martin said of Kotsar in particular. "He kept Motley in bad spots on the floor so Motley couldn't get moving. Chris Silva stayed out of foul trouble, we were good defensively."
Another freshman, Sedee Keita, came off the bench and provided 13 quality minutes. He was a force the entire time with his effort and intensity. On one play, Keita outran his Baylor counterpart for a ball, tapped it in the air, and grabbed it for an offensive rebound.
He would finish with two rebounds and two blocks in those 13 minutes.
"I just wanted to come in and be an energizer bunny," Keita said. "Go out there and play as hard as a I can, and hopefully my energy will flow through everyone else. That's what happened."
The Gamecocks move on to the Elite Eight to take on SEC rival Florida on Sunday. The Gamecocks and Gators split the regular season series with each team winning on their home court. Tipoff is scheduled for 2:20 p.m.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo courtesy of South Carolina Athletics Media Relations**