TAMPA, Fla. — PJ Dozier scored 11 of his 23 points in the closing minutes and No. 16 South Carolina shrugged off cold shooting to pull away to a 77-66 victory over South Florida on Saturday.
The Gamecocks (9-1) rebounded from their only loss of the season while improving to 2-1 without leading scorer and rebounder Sindarius Thornwell, who has been suspended indefinitely for violating athletic department policy.
Duane Notice of the Gamecocks scored 14 of his 15 points in the second half after missing all eight shots he took before the break.
Jahmal McMurray led USF (5-4) with 25 points. Malik Fitts had 12 points and Geno Thorpe finished with 11 points and nine rebounds for the Bulls, who led 37-31 at halftime.
South Carolina began the second half with a 17-9 burst to take a 48-41 lead. Dozier and Notice keyed the initial surge and Dozier took over down the stretch, when the Gamecocks led by as many as 13.
THE BIG PICTURE
South Carolina, which has its highest ranking since being No. 14 in the final poll of the 1997-98 season, obviously misses Thornwell, who leads them in assists, as well as scoring and rebounding. With Notice missing the first eight shots he attempted, including six from 3-point range, the Gamecocks trailed at halftime for the first time this season.
Not surprisingly, South Florida faded down the stretch. Luis Santos made a layup to trim South Carolina’s lead to 64-61 with 7 minutes left, however the Bulls didn’t score again from the field until Bo Zeigler’s basket with 29 seconds left.
USF fell to 0-4 against ranked opponents under coach Orlando Antigua and have dropped 20 consecutive games to Top 25 opponents since knocking off No. 15 Louisville on the road on Feb. 29, 2012.
UNIENDO LOS TOROS
USF designated Saturday as Uniendo Los Toros, which in English translates to Uniting The Bulls. The game featured two of three Hispanic-American head coaches in NCAA Division I in South Carolina’s Frank Martin and USF’s Antigua. Miami’s Jim Larranaga is the third. Early arrivals among a small crowd at the Sun Dome received white T-shirts commemorating the occasion.
South Carolina: Returns home to face intrastate rival Clemson on Wednesday.
South Florida: Faces Northern Illinois at home on Tuesday.