South Carolina edged Monmouth 70-69 in overtime. PJ Dozier hit a desperation shot at the buzzer to give South Carolina the win.
Monmouth took just its third lead of the game, 69-68, on a layup by Je’lon Hornbeak. Justin McKie missed the go-ahead three on the other end, but Maik Kotsar forced Justin Robinson into a miss. Sindarius Thornwell grabbed the rebound with eight seconds left and raced upcourt. Frank Martin opted not to call a timeout, letting Thornwell make the play. Thornwell dribbled just past midcourt and kicked to Duane Notice in the right corner. Notice pump-faked and took one dribble toward the basket. He jumped and kicked to Dozier on the left baseline. Dozier jumped, and in one motion caught the ball and shot it. The buzzer sounded, the lights went on, and the ball went through the net. Dozier stood watching, and then was mobbed by his teammates.
“I thought he was about to shoot it so I was about to crash the glass, and he found me in the short corner,” Dozier said. “That was great. I couldn’t breathe. I was waiting for them to get up (off of me).”
“PJ was not where he belonged, he was in no man’s land,” Martin said. “He was trying to go to the other side for an offensive rebound. Duane, I have no idea how he saw PJ. He froze on me a little bit. He took a dribble into the seam and killed his dribble and jumped up. At the last second, I have no idea how he found PJ. But he did and he made a clean pass and PJ figured out a way to catch it in the air and (shoot).”
South Carolina was playing its third game in five nights, and the fatigue showed. South Carolina shot 34 percent from the floor and 68 percent from the line. Martin compared the offense play to that of nine-year olds. Thornwell said when the game ended he was just happy it was over.
“I was dead,” he said. “It was very tiring. It took a lot of focus anda lot of hard work to prepare for these tough games.”
Both teams shot horribly in the first half. Monmouth was a dismal 7-30 from the floor, and South Carolina was barely better at 8-30. Monmouth missed its first nine shots of the game as it quickly fell behind 13-0. However, South Carolina had an answer for the Monmouth struggles and at one point went over 10 minutes without scoring a field goal, allowing Monmouth to claw back in the game.
The second half opened the same way. South Carolina went on an 11-0 run out of the break that gave it a seemingly insurmountable 18 point lead. But once again Monmouth began to find its rhythm as the South Carolina offense, beset by turnovers and missed layups, went cold. The Hawks put together a 13-0 run to wipe out most of the deficit.
They finally tied the game at 50 on a pair of free throws with 7:48 left to play. Hassani Gravett missed two free throws, and Monmouth took its first lead of the game on a putback at the rim. Thornwell quickly answered with a corner three to put the Gamecocks back on top. The teams battled to a 58-58 tie in the final ninety seconds. Dozier missed a long jumper for the lead and Monmouth ran out intransition. Chris Silva came from behind with a block to preserve the tie. After a timeout, Monmouth’s Justin Robinson launched a quick, long three that was no good. Thornwell pushed the ball upcourt and was fouled on a layup attempt. He made both free throws for a 60-58 lead.
On the ensuing possession, Silva was called for a blocking foul, and Micah Seaborn made both free throws to tie the game. South Carolina had a chance for the final shot, but turned the ball over. Je’lon Hornbeak got a look at the rim, but Thornwell blocked his 12 foot jumper. South Carolina got one last shot with 0.8 seconds left, but Dozier’s heave from halfcourt drew iron and bounced away.
Neither team got any separation in overtime, setting the stage for Dozier’s heroics. Although Dozier hit the game-winning shot, it was Thornwell who made almost every other big play. He finished with a game-high 23 points despite a poor shooting night (6-18). He made his free throws (9-11) and made every key play down the stretch on offense and defense. He finished with nine rebounds, five assists, and a career-high three blocks, all on his birthday.
Notice chipped in 15 points, and Silva had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. Chris Brady led Monmouth with 17 points and 10 rebounds.
Notes: Freshman forward Sedee Keita did not play as he continues to recover from a wrist injury. Keita has yet to play this season. … The game was officially part of the Brooklyn Hoops Holiday Invitational. …South Carolina is off Wednesday to recuperate after the early stretch of games. … South Carolina returns to the court Friday against SC State.