South Carolina (7-7, 0-1) had to weather a tough start in tonight’s SEC opener at No. 10/11 Florida (12-2, 1-0) to keep the game close, but an 11-0 run midway through second half propelled the Gators past the Gamecocks, 74-58, at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center.
Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin led all scorers with 17 points including, 3-6 shooting from beyond the arc, and senior center Patric Young added 13 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Tyrone Johnson led the South Carolina with 12 points, six rebounds and two assists.
The Gamecocks struggled offensively to get in sync from the tip against a suffocating Gator defense. Florida turned South Carolina over seven times in their first 10 possessions and forced six missed field goal attempts as the home team built a 14-1 lead in just over seven minutes as the Gamecocks leading-scorer Brenton Williams was sent to the bench with two fouls four minutes into the game.
After getting a fouled on a 3-point attempt Duane Notice was sent to the free throw line where he hit two-of-three. The freshman point guard tried to force the issue a minute later, getting forward Will Yeguette his second foul of the night.
Young stretched the lead to 16-4, before the Gamecocks registered its first basket as it came on a jumper from the corner from Mindaugas Kacinas with 10:35 on the clock.
Despite giving up its first basket, Florida was able to extend its lead up 18, the second time at 32-14 with just over four minutes left in the half. The Gamecocks, though, would not fade away. Right after Williams came up with a steal and took it the other way for two, Notice found Sindarius Thornwell open on the left side for a 3-pointer on the following possession as the Carolina ended the half on a 7-2 run.
Williams though, went back to the bench with just under two minutes remaining after being called for his third foul.
After starting the game 0-7, the Gamecocks climbed back into it, going 6-12 the rest of the half. The quick start from Gators though was too much as they held a 32-21 lead at the half, getting 18 points from Casey Prather (10) and Wilbekin (8).
The Gamecocks were able to keep the deficit close to 10 points throughout the early going in the second half, getting it down to eight with 13:55 remaining, but Wilbekin’s second 3-pointer of the half ignited a 9-2 run for the home team that forced Carolina to call a timeout.
The Gamecocks countered with five straight points after a 3-pointer from the corner by Williams, though, cutting the Gators lead to 10. Florida responded with a three of its own from freshman guard Michael Frazier. Young then turned over Kacinas in the backcourt and took it the other way for a layup.
Just over a minute later, Wilbekin pushed the lead to 18 at 60-42 with a 3, just before Frazier followed that up with his second 3 of the night with just under seven minutes left.
The Gators shot 57.8 percent from the field on the night, hitting 14-20 (70 percent) in the second half compared to Carolina, which finished the game 18-41 (43.9 percent). After holding a decisive rebounding edge at the half, the Gamecocks ended the night with only a 28-25 edge on the glass.
South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Saturday as they host LSU. Tip-off is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET and will air on SEC TV.
Story by USC Sports Information
(Audio courtesy of GoGamecocks.com)
Here’s video of Florida coach Billy Donovan’s post game press conference: