Dozier lifts No. 19 South Carolina over Georgia 77-75

Courtesy: South Carolina Athletics

COLUMBIA, S.C. – Paced by sophomore guard PJ Dozier’s seventh 20-point game of the season and four 3-pointers each from seniors Sindarius Thornwell and Duane Notice, No. 19/20 Carolina held off Georgia to register a 77-75 win Saturday afternoon at Colonial Life Arena. The victory improved the Gamecocks’ record to 19-4 and 9-1 in the SEC and kept them unbeaten at home in conference action. Georgia dropped to 13-10 overall and 4-6 in league play following the loss.

Dozier finished with a game-high 21 points, including five over the final 1:52 to help Carolina hold off Georgia’s late rally. Thornwell chipped in 18 points, while Notice added 15 for a Gamecock backcourt unit that accounted for 68 of Carolina’s points Saturday. The Gamecocks shot 45.8 percent from the 3-point line and knocked down 11 field goals from beyond the arc for the game. A strong defensive showing in the second half keyed Carolina’s victory, as the Bulldogs were held without a field goal for a stretch of over eight minutes in the final period.

Defense led to offense for Carolina out of the gate, and a steal from Dozier set up the Gamecocks on the break. Notice led the charge, racing down the court before finding Dozier on the left block for a jumper that made it 2-0. Notice’s 3-pointer from the left corner cut the Bulldog lead to 6-5 minutes later, and Georgia headed to the first media timeout leading 8-5 with 15:45 left in the first half.

Both teams struggled from the field in the early going, with the two combining to shoot 4-of-17 in the opening five minutes. Thornwell awakened the Gamecock offense after finding his stroke from deep with three 3-pointers in a span of 90 seconds. The senior connected on his straightaway attempt to even the game at eight, and his 3-pointers on back-to-back Carolina possessions put the Gamecocks in front 14-11 with 12:30 to play in the half. Thornwell’s hot shooting start carried over to his fellow backcourt members, and a 3-pointer from freshman guard Rakym Felder made it 17-17 and ended a 6-0 Georgia run. Five of Carolina’s first seven field goals came from the 3-point line.

The two offenses began to get into a rhythm in a back-and-forth final 10 minutes of the half. Notice netted his second field goal of the afternoon in style, delivering a three-point play from the right block, and Dozier’s jumper answered a Georgia 3-pointer and gave the Gamecocks a 24-23 lead with just over eight minutes remaining in the half. The Bulldogs’ seventh-straight made field goal resulted in a three-point play and put Georgia in front 28-26 before a great drive inside from Thornwell set the guard up for a tough left-handed layup and made it 28-28 with 4:16 to play in the period. The basket put the senior in double-figures with 11 for the Gamecocks, whose backcourt provided all of Carolina’s points in the opening 20 minutes.

Sparked by Dozier, the Gamecocks tallied 10 of the half’s final 16 points to pull even with the Bulldogs at the break. The sophomore’s layup cut the Bulldog lead to 32-30, and his fourth field goal of the half made it 35-34 Gamecocks with just over a minute left in the half. Dozier capped off the impressive stretch with a 3-pointer off a kick-out pass from redshirt sophomore guard Hassani Gravett to put Carolina ahead 38-36 before Bulldog guard J.J. Frazier converted a pair of free throws to send the two teams into the locker room tied at 38. Thornwell and Dozier totaled 11 points each in the half for a Carolina team that shot 7-of-13 from the 3-point line in the first period.

South Carolina celebrated its annual Legends Weekend on Saturday during halftime of the contest versus the Bulldogs. Highlighted on the court were members of the 1997 SEC Championship team that were able to return for the game. Head coach of the championship team Eddie Fogler was also on hand for the celebration. Longtime equipment manager Mac Credille was also honored as part of the halftime ceremony for the Mac Credille Men’s Basketball Manager Scholarship.

The Gamecock backcourt continued to answer the call from long range out of the break, and Notice’s third 3-pointer established a 44-40 Carolina lead with just over three minutes gone in the second half. The Bulldogs battled back with six-straight points to take a 46-44 lead, but Notice again delivered from the corner. The guard, who knocked in at least three 3-pointers for the eighth time this season, connected on a shot from beyond the arc from the left side to put the Gamecocks back in front 47-46 with 14:29 to play. Felder brought the Carolina fans to their feet less than two minutes later after using a pump fake to get into the lane and bank home a nifty layup that made it 49-48 Gamecocks in the tightly contested affair.

The contest remained a one-possession game, and another Georgia free throw pulled the Bulldogs even at 51 as the teams headed into the final 10 minutes. Freshman forward Maik Kotsar displayed great touch down low with a turnaround jumper from the left block that made it 53-51 Gamecocks and provided the start of an 8-0 Carolina run. Three Gamecock free throws over the next 90 seconds produced the largest lead of the game for Carolina at 56-51, and momentum continued to shift towards the home side when Thornwell drilled a 3-pointer to stretch the advantage to 59-51 with 7:30 to play. Thornwell supplied another big play less than two minutes later when the senior swiped the ball away and made a layup on the other end to give the Gamecocks a 61-54 cushion with just over six minutes remaining in the game.

Georgia’s points continued to come from the charity stripe, and two free throws from Frazier cut the Gamecock lead to 62-58 with 4:37 left. Carolina responded with two free throws from Kotsar to push the lead to 64-58 before the Gamecocks again seized control via the 3-point line. Senior guard Justin McKie knocked down the shot, finding the bottom of the net from the left side to make it 67-58 late in the contest. The Bulldogs’ first field goal in over eight minutes made it 67-60, and Georgia inched closer when it converted a three-point play to cut the lead to 69-63 with just over two minutes remaining. The Bulldogs would not go away, as they came to within four of the lead at 73-69 with 26 seconds to play following a jumper from Frazier and a free throw by guard William Jackson II.

The contest became a one-possession game at 74-71 when Jackson II laid it in,  and Georgia cut the Carolina advantage to 75-73 on another basket from Frazier. The Gamecocks’ ensuing in-bounds pass sent the ball to McKie, who headed to the line after being fouled with just six seconds remaining. The senior calmly connected on both attempts from the charity stripe to make it 77-73, and Georgia’s tip-in following its missed 3-pointer with a second remaining was not enough to make up the difference.

Carolina shot 43.3 percent from the floor for the afternoon and scored 16 points off 15 Georgia turnovers. Saturday’s game featured 18 lead changes, with neither team able to build a double-digit lead throughout the contest.

 

KEY STAT

The Gamecocks enjoyed a solid afternoon from the 3-point line, knocking down 11 shots from beyond the arc. Saturday’s performance marked the fifth time Carolina totaled double-digit 3-pointers in a game this season.

 

NOTABLES

  • Saturday was the first sellout for a Gamecock men’s game at Colonial Life Arena this season. Carolina boasts 10 sellouts at the arena all-time, including four in the last two seasons.
  • Three of the last four games between the Gamecocks and Bulldogs have been decided by two points or less. Carolina improved to 32-19 at home against Georgia with the victory this weekend.
  • Carolina senior guard Duane Notice has knocked down multiple 3-pointers in each of his last four games.
  • The Gamecocks have scored at least 15 points off turnovers in nine of their 10 SEC contests.
  • Saturday marked the second time that two Gamecocks netted at least four 3-pointers in a game in SEC play this year.
  • Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell has finished with at least 15 points in all but one of Carolina’s SEC games this season.

 

UP NEXT

South Carolina has a quick turnaround when it hosts Alabama on Tuesday, Feb. 7. The meeting marks the first and only between the two schools this SEC regular season. Alabama broke Carolina’s season-opening 15-game win streak last season in a matchup between the two schools, posting a 73-50 win over the Gamecocks in Tuscaloosa. Tip time is set for 6:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday vs. the Crimson Tide. Mike Morgan (pxp) and Dane Bradshaw (analyst) will have the call for the SEC Network.

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