PJ Dozier leads No. 19 South Carolina by Georgia

By The Sports Xchange  |  Feb. 4, 2017 at 8:22 PM
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It hasn't been forgotten that Georgia single-handedly eliminated South Carolina from the NCAA Tournament last season.

Gamecocks coach Frank Martin has had to re-live and re-discuss the situation numerous times this season and he hopes the subject will finally be cast aside after his 19th-ranked squad posted a 77-75 victory over Georgia on Saturday afternoon in SEC play at Columbia, S.C.

South Carolina went 25-9 last season and three of the losses were to Georgia. The last two occurred in March, including the highly damaging defeat in the SEC tournament that removed the Gamecocks as part of the projected NCAA field and into the NIT.

"I don't have to answer to the media about them sweeping us this year. That's one good deal," Martin said. "Before the year started, it sounded like we had never beaten Georgia. That was every question I got. At least I can avoid that one for maybe 12 months."

Sophomore guard PJ Dozier scored 21 points as the Gamecocks (19-4, 9-1) completed the regular-season sweep of the Bulldogs.

Senior point guard Sindarius Thornwell contributed 18 points, seven rebounds and three steals for South Carolina, which have won four straight contests. Senior guard Duane Notice added 15 points for the Gamecocks, who thwarted Georgia's late-game rally.

"We played these guys for five years now and every game with the exception of one has come down to the last possession of the game," Martin said. "It is unbelievable the way these two teams play each other."

Junior forward Yante Maten and senior point guard J.J. Frazier scored 18 points apiece for the Bulldogs (13-10, 4-6). Junior guard Juwan Parker tallied 11 for Georgia, which has lost four of its past five games.

South Carolina's victory tentatively pushed itself into first place in the SEC by a half-game over No. 8 Kentucky. The Wildcats visit No. 24 Florida on Saturday night.

Thornwell and Notice knocked each down four 3-pointers as South Carolina was 11-of-24 from behind the arc.

"When they shoot the 3 like that, they're hard to beat," Bulldogs coach Mark Fox said.

Free-throw shooting was a problem as the Gamecocks were just 14 of 25 from the line to help set up Georgia (22 of 28) for a final push.

South Carolina rattled off eight straight points to take a 59-51 lead with 7:28 remaining. Thornwell scored four points during the run, including a 3-pointer to cap it.

The Bulldogs were hurt by a stretch in which they missed nine of 10 field-goal attempts but remained within range by hitting seven free throws to trail 62-58 with 4:36 left. South Carolina answered on two free throws by freshman forward Maik Kotsar and a 3-pointer by senior guard Justin McKie to take a nine-point edge with 3:17 left.

As McKie lined up to take the shot, Martin was highly displeased with his decision.

"That wasn't the shot I wanted," Martin said. "Then I was like, 'No! No! YES!'"

Parker hit a jumper with 2:51 to play to end Georgia's 7 1/2-minute field-goal drought. The Bulldogs kept chipping away and pulled within 75-73 on two free throws by Frazier with 9.6 seconds.

McKie hit two free throws with 7.7 seconds remaining to make it a two-possession game as South Carolina held on for the victory.

"It was a tight game and we anticipated this," Fox said. "It was a really hard-fought, physical game and this was probably five or six games in a row that it has come down to the last minute.

"If you look at the totality of the 40 minutes, we finished at a shooting percentage (49.0) that we are pleased with but we just have to improve those defensive numbers a little bit. We also gave up some second-chance baskets in the second half that were back-breaking."

There were 14 lead changes in the first half and the score was knotted at 38-38 at the break.

The Gamecocks started by missing seven of their first nine shots before Thornwell drained three 3-pointers in 84 seconds to provide for a three-point lead. A short time later, freshman guard Rakym Felder went on a personal 5-0 run to give South Carolina a 19-17 edge just past the midway point.

Maten's inside basket gave the Bulldogs with a 32-28 advantage with3:09 left. The Gamecocks responded with a 10-4 burst to regain the lead before Frazier connected on two free throws with 3.3 seconds remaining to tie the score.

NOTES:

-- South Carolina senior G Sindarius Thornwell's 18-point effort moved him into sixth place on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,602 career points. Thornwell passed former NBA player and coach Mike Dunleavy Sr. (1,586 from 1972-76).

-- The Bulldogs were 5-of-9 (55.6) from 3-point range against a South Carolina squad leading the nation in 3-point percentage defense (25.7).

-- All the Gamecocks' first-half scoring was by guards -- freshman F Maik Kotsar's inside basket with-18:53-remaining represented the first points by a frontcourt player.

-- Georgia senior G J.J. Frazier (1,355 points) moved into 17th place on the school's all-time scoring list and needs 96 points to reach the Top 10.

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