"We're not there yet," Martin said after the cheers died down. "But it's fun right now."
It might get less fun come Sunday. If the Gamecocks (23-10) want an NCAA winning streak, they will have to beat No. 2 seed Duke, which blew past Troy 87-65 in an earlier game.
South Carolina last won a game in the NCAAs when it topped Southwestern Louisiana 90-85 in a regional consolation game on March 17, 1973. Exactly 44 years later, the drought — the Gamecocks were one-and-done in their next five appearances — finally came to end in front of a boisterous, South Carolina crowd who traveled the 2 hours north from Columbia to witness the end of an ugly run they couldn't have imagined would last this long.
"This is a great day for Gamecock basketball," said Alex English, the Denver Nuggets great who scored 22 points in that long-ago South Carolina win.
Marquette (19-13) gave fans some serious worries in the opening half, going up by 10 points. But the Gamecocks used an 11-0 run midway through the second half to take control. When Thornwell, voted Southeastern Conference player of the year by league coaches, nailed his third 3-pointer with 6:37 to play, South Carolina was up 76-67 and pulling away.
P.J. Dozier had 21 points, 13 in the South Carolina's second-half rally.
Jujuan Johnson had 16 points to lead Marquette.
South Carolina's win spoiled a made-for-TV second-rounder between Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and his former Blue Devils point guard and longtime assistant, Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski.
Wojciechowski said his team could not match the Gamecocks' physicality in the second half. "We couldn't sustain that as long as we needed to and they created separation," he said.
The Golden Eagles could not keep up with the Gamecocks defensive pressure or high-tempo play in the second half.
Marquette came out firing — Rowsey opened the game with a four-point play — and moved in front 26-16. South Carolina, though, cut things to 40-39 at the half on Maik Kotsar's layup with 42 seconds left.
Marquette: The Golden Eagles withered in the second half, committing 12 of their 19 turnovers in the final 20 minutes. They also made only three 3-pointers after hitting eight in the opening half.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks won't have it so free and easy against Duke as they did in this one. South Carolina will have to play more disciplined and find others besides Thornwell to make significant contributions if they hope to move one.
NOT LIKE FATHER