GREENVILLE, S.C. — PJ Dozier looked a whole lot like PJ Dozier on Friday night and that’s a whole lot of good news for South Carolina basketball.
The Gamecocks sophomore guard had emphatic dunks, sharp cuts and silky jumpers going for him in USC’s 93-73 win against Marquette.
“The coaching staff continues to tell me to stay aggressive, attack the rim,” Dozier said. “Being 6-6, that’s what you have to do. You have to put pressure on the rim and I feel like that’s when I play my best basketball.”
He was playing that way in Greenville, scoring 21 points on 9 of 13 shooting to help fuel South Carolina’s 30-point turnaround against the Golden Eagles.
Dozier came out hot this season, averaging close to 16.0 points per game through the start of conference. But he has been up and down in the past six weeks after sitting out a game against Kentucky with back spasms. He has maintained it was a quick issue and has not impacted his play, but the way Dozier played Friday night hadn’t truly been seen since he was rolling through November and December.
It was a very welcome sight for the Gamecocks, who advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament since 1973.
“I think we’ve all been waiting,” senior guard Sindarius Thornwell said. “PJ is good. I think he got his confidence back right now. He is playing at a high level.”
Dozier got his game going early Friday by getting to the rim and scoring. He had one of the first buckets of the night for the Gamecocks, following it up with a steal and layup.
He had a pair of big two-handed dunks, including one on a fantastic pass from senior guard Duane Notice as Dozier cut in the open court.
“PJ is really close with some of the core guys,” Notice said. “That fact that Justin (McKie) and I and Sin are not going to be here anymore, I think that hit him that he was not going to be able to play basketball with us anymore. I think that contributed to that aggressiveness.”
Whatever it was that had Dozier playing like he is capable of again, the Gamecocks were happy to see it — and it came at a perfect time.
“It’s definitely a game that you come out and get up for it,” Dozier said. “You know that everything is on the line. Our coaching staff harped on playing the best basketball you can.”