The first person people normally think of when they hear "South Carolina" is senior Sindarius Thornwell. The SEC Player of the Year can do everything for the Gamecocks, and he certainly has been responsible for several wins this season.
However, there were a couple of players who stepped up behind Thornwell during the monumental, 93-73 victory over Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament who were extremely valuable.
Duane Notice's great defense on Marquette's Andrew Rowsey and P.J. Dozier's aggressive offensive mindset were huge for South Carolina in the first NCAA Tournament win for the program in 44 years.
Notice has been the Gamecocks' best on-ball defender this season, but he's been overlooked because of some of his offensive struggles. However, he was instrumental in South Carolina's victory over the Golden Eagles.
This was the second time that Rowsey faced off against the Gamecocks. The first time came in 2014 when he was with UNC Asheville. South Carolina won that game, but Rowsey dropped six 3-pointers and 30 points.
Rowsey began Friday's game with a four-point play, but Notice hassled him all night, and Rowsey finished with just 13 points on 3-of-9 shooting. Marquette has several players who can knock down shots, but South Carolina's defense, led by Notice, stifled the attack.
"It's just pride," Notice said of why he puts so much work in on defense. "I knew my role, and my role wasn't always to get the ball and play isolation. I take pride in guys not scoring on us. At the end of the day, you have to score the most points."
On the offensive end, Dozier was electric and looked like the player he was earlier in the year. The 6-foot-6 guard continuously drove the lane against Marquette's smaller defenders and had several dunks and layups.
He ultimately set the tone on offense and finished with 21 points on 9-of-14 shooting. It was an important performance from a player who's had his ups and downs this season.
"The coaching staff continues to tell me to stay aggressive (and) 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."
The Gamecocks will need big performances again from that duo if they hope to knock off No. 2 seed Duke on Sunday. Tipoff between the Gamecocks and Blue Devils in Greenville is set for approximately 8:45 p.m. and can be seen on TNT.
**Story by Kyle Heck/photo by Artie Walker**