Here is everything you need to know about P.J. Dozier, the hero of Tuesday night’s thrilling 70-69 overtime victory over Monmouth: the Spring Valley High School graduate and son of former Gamecock star Perry Dozier fired blanks in regulation, missing all seven of his shots.
But in overtime he was a perfect 3-for-3 from the floor, including the game-winner at the buzzer on a perfect cross-court pass from Duane Notice. Dozier floated in the air as he shot the ball and didn’t land on his feet until the ball was halfway down the drain.
As a freshman last season, Dozier might not have been on the floor for overtime. This year, he tossed his poor play in regulation aside and made the game-winning shot.
“I’ve learned a little about him because last year I wouldn’t have played him (in OT),” USC head coach Frank Martin said. “He wouldn’t have finished the game. He would have been on the bench and I would have played somebody else. P.J. has worked his tail off and he deserves the opportunity to play through some mistakes. He’s grown up and embraced who he is. He has earned my trust. But he has to be a lot better than he was tonight. But all of our guys are the same way.”
On a night when neither team shot better than 34 percent from the field, Dozier shot just 3-of-10 for six points and had more turnovers (3) than assists (2) or rebounds (2) in 30 minutes.
“He’s a great kid,” Martin said. “I’m not surprised he figured out a way to make some plays in overtime to help us win.”
But Dozier rectified everything by making the final clutch shot and keeping the Gamecocks unbeaten at 3-0 heading into Friday’s 6:30 p.m. home game against Palmetto State rival S.C. State.
“P.J. figured out a way to catch it in the air and throw it in,” Martin said. “That was a Michael Beasley kind of play. I haven’t coached too many guys that have the ability to control themselves in the air and make a play like that.”
In spite of winning ‘ugly’ considering the Gamecocks’ low shooting percentage, Martin realizes Monmouth is a legitimate NCAA Tournament contender, making Tuesday night a possible positive ‘RPI’ win when March rolls around.
Apologies for winning? Heck, no.
“At the end of the year, they don’t ask how you won games, they ask how many you won and who you beat,” Martin said. “Anytime you can get out of an early season game against a team as good as Monmouth that returns all their players and has the guard play they have, you take it and figure out a way to get better.”
That 33.8 shooting percentage? Yeah, Martin wasn’t pleased, describing the Gamecocks as “selfish and so bad” on the offensive end of the floor.
More fuel for Martin’s anger – the Gamecocks had zero fast break points and were outscored, 17-12, in second chance points. All in all, the Gamecocks won despite not many positive things happening on the offensive end.
Well, until Dozier’s final shot sent Gamecock fans home happy.
“We just decided to act like practice is something we never do and throw the ball to the wrong people and have guys not know what we’re running,” Martin said. “We came out of four timeouts today and we did not even attempt to execute what we designed and spoke about in the timeouts. Offense was our biggest problem.
“This team has one major flaw – they don’t listen very well. When you’re not a good listening team, you’re going to end up in bad spots. We got lucky today. Thursday, we have to come in excited about who we are (after a day off Wednesday). I know our guys will be excited. We have to get better with our ears.”
-- Tuesday night’s win marked the eighth time in Martin's 10 seasons as a head coach that his team has won the first three games of the season, and the third time in his five seasons at South Carolina.
-- Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell scored 23 points for his second straight 20-point outing and the 17th of his career. He upped his career scoring total to 1,339 points.
-- Sophomore forward Chris Silva tallied his first career double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. Before fouling out. Monmouth head coach King Rice said he has known Silva for a while as he played his high school basketball at Roselle (N.J.) Catholic and that Silva has improved greatly under Martin’s tutelage in his first 18 months on campus.
-- The Gamecocks have held all three opponents so far this season below 50 percent shooting (La Tech 43.6 percent, Holy Cross 37.8 pct and Monmouth 30.8 pct.).
-- Justin McKie led all bench players for the second straight game in points (8) and minutes (27).
-- In 55 minutes of action so far this season, freshman forward Maik Kotsar has seven rebounds and 11 fouls. Martin’s reaction? Exactly what you think. “That’s a problem,” Martin said. “We need more production from Kotsar on offense.” Kotsar has scored 14 points on 6-of-9 shooting. Silva has committed 13 fouls in 57 minutes.
-- Rick Callahan, an assistant coach at USC under Eddie Fogler from 1994-2001, is currently an assistant at Monmouth.
NEXT FIVE GAMES
11/18 vs. South Carolina State, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network+)
11/23 vs. Michigan, 5:00 p.m. (ESPNU)
11/26 vs. Syracuse, 2:30 p.m. (at Brooklyn, NY)(ESPN3)
12/1 vs. Vermont, 6:30 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
12/4 vs. Florida International, 2 p.m. (SEC Network Plus)
South Carolina holds off Monmouth in overtime. Very good win for Frank Martin and the Gamecocks over the MAAC favorite. Resume worthy.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) November 16, 2016