All was well with South Carolina guard PJ Dozier when the Gamecocks boarded their flight for Kentucky on Friday night.
But before the team landed in Lexington for its Saturday game against the No. 5 Wildcats, Dozier’s back began to spasm. So the sophomore guard, who is the second-leading scorer at 14.6 points per game, was on the bench as South Carolina lost 85-69 to Kentucky.
“It’s not a comfortable thing,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. “We’ve just gotta keep treating it and hope that things cool off and try to get him ready for Tuesday.”
The Gamecocks (15-4, 5-1) host Auburn at 6:30 p.m. ET Tuesday at Colonial Life Arena, looking to get back in the win column after their first SEC loss of the season.
The injury took place late in Friday’s practice, Martin said, when Dozier went up for a layup and landed awkwardly. The sophomore didn’t say anything at the time, but his back acted up on the flight. Martin said the team trainer and team physician treated Dozier throughout the night and again during the day Saturday.
A game-time decision was made that Dozier would not play, leaving the Gamecocks down a potent scorer and strong perimeter defender in a key conference matchup.
“You’re talking about a 6-6 guy that knows how to defend,” Martin said. “The bigger problem is now you’re playing a lot of inexperienced guys at Rupp Arena against the No. 5 team in the country, that is high-powered offensively in front of 25,000 people.”
Freshman guard Rakym Felder started in Dozier’s absence. The Brooklyn native played 19 minutes, scoring 3 points on 1 of 6 shooting in his first career start.
Martin said Felder was nervous early in the game, leading to some early issues that contributed to his 4 turnovers.
“He settled down and played better in the second half,” Martin said. “Like freshmen, they get wrapped up in the moment. He had some missed assignments on offense. Once he settled down, he played better. I thought he was really nervous early in the game.”