The 2011-12 academic year was a successful time on the athletic fields for the Gamecocks. Beginning today we're counting down the Top 10 and Bottom 10 moments for USC athletics in the past season. We start with Highlights #10-6.
#10 Football beats Kentucky 54-3
This game was against one of USC's weaker opponents, but it had plenty of significance for a variety of reasons. First, South Carolina lost to Kentucky the season before in Lexington in a game where Marcus Lattimore was injured. That loss never should have happened, but it did and 2011 was pay back.
Second, Carolina had lost to Auburn the week before, the offense was struggling and Stephen Garcia had been dismissed from the team. It was important that the offense show some life and Connor Shaw show the ability to lead. Clearly both happened.
#9 Women's basketball beats Tennessee in Knoxville 64-60
South Carolina rallied from 7 down in the final 3:37 to beat the Volunteers. It was the first Gamecock win against Tennessee in 32 years, and it was the first ever win in Knoxville.
Tennessee's women's basketball team is collegiate royalty. They are the standard in their sport. Coach Dawn Staley has been building a program in Columbia, and this win was a major step forward for that group. This win would be enough to make a team's season, but it wasn't the last accomplishment for this team.
#8 Frank Martin is hired as men's basketball coach
The men's basketball team had been struggling. They never made the NCAA tournament under Darrin Horn, and the lack of success was dragging the program down. Attendence and support were both waning, and the long term prospects were looking down. In steps Frank Martin. A bigger name than many expected, Martin brought instant optimism to the program. He is the kind of dynamic program builder we needed.
#7 Women's basketball advances to the sweet 16
Dawn Staley continued building her program into one of the SEC's best. She took another step forward when her team advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. After beating Eastern Michigan 80-48 in the first round the Gamecocks had to beat Purdue at Purdue in order to advance. The Lady Gamecocks did just that and won 72-61 to advance. In the Sweet 16 they fell to eventual Final Four participant Stanford.
#6 Baseball beats Clemson in 12 innings in the Regional
The NCAA didn't do USC any favors when they set the regional matchups. Rather than having some run of the mill 2 seed sent to Columbia, South Carolina was given their rivals. The selection committee assured the Gamecocks they would have to play the most motivated team possible. Apparently that didn't matter to the boys in Garnet.
After Clemson had taken a two run lead, South Carolina cut the lead in half in the 8th. In the 9th, they tied to game to force extra innings. It wouldn't be until the 12th inning that the game would be decided. With a runner on third and only one out, L.B. Dantzler needed to get the ball deep enough to end the game. With two strikes, Dantzler sent a deep shot to right field to win the game in walk off fashion.