South Carolina expected to have a huge homecourt advantage in Greenville for the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament. After all, the Gamecocks were less than two hours away from home.
However, hearing a deafening Gamecocks cheer in Madison Square Garden in New York City? That's truly something special.
"I had no idea what was going to happen," Maik Kotsar said. "I knew our fans were going to be here, but I didn't know the quantity of it. It actually blew me away during the game. I was expecting it to be somewhat 50-50."
Even before the game, South Carolina fans flooded the streets of New York City and outnumbered the fans of the other three schools playing in the East Regional. It was the same case in the famous Madison Square Garden, where the crowd helped the Gamecocks come away with a 70-50 win over Baylor to advance to the first Elite Eight in school history.
"They're the key," P.J. Dozier said of the crowd. "They are our sixth man. We just thank them for the support that they continue to bring night in and night out. We really feel like they're the main people that got us there."
A lot of the national media focused on the advantage South Carolina had in crowd support, but it's something that head coach Frank Martin has witnessed firsthand over the last couple of years.
"You guys are just starting to watch our fans," Martin said. "You don't understand how good our fans are. Our guys love playing for our fans (and) our fans love cheering for our guys."
When the Gamecocks went on their pivotal 18-0 run in the first half, the fans were behind them every step of the way. When the Bears called timeout, several of the players waved their arms at the crowd, urging them on.
"It was really awesome," Kotsar said. "Some of my friends bought plane tickets to come see the game, and a lot of their friends. That means a lot."
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Jenny Dilworth**