Gators Lose Seesaw Battle To Gamecocks

In the Elite Eight rematch for last year's NCAA tournament, South Carolina (13-7 4-4 SEC) hit 11 of 21 three pointers & won a seesaw battle over Florida 77-72, ending the Gators (14-6 6-2 SEC) two game winning streak.  The Gamecocks were paced by Guard Wesley Myers, who led all scorers with 22 points, & a double-double from Forward Chris Silva.

The game started with the Gamecocks hitting their first two shots, both three pointers, first from Forward Maik Kotsar, the second from Guard Evan Hinson.  Those two threes gave South Carolina an early 6-2 with over a minute gone in the game.  But the Gators ran off five straight points in the next minute & took their first lead 7-6, after Guard KeVaughn Allen hit a three pointer of his own.

The next six minutes the Gators went on a 14-4 run that included 9 bench points, five from Guard Jalen Hudson & four from Forward Donta Bassett.  But trailing 21-10, the Gamecocks, in just over three minutes, put on their own run outscoring the Gators 8-2.  The Gators got a layup to end that run, but back to back three pointers from Myers got the Gamecocks within one, 25-24.

The next 90 seconds included the Gators getting a three pointer from Hudson.  But also included the Gamecocks taking the lead back after Silva, who had 18 points & 12 rebounds, hit four free throws.  The one point Gamecocks' lead lasted all of 20 seconds after Hudson hit a jumper.  But five points later by the Gamecocks had the lead again following a three pointer by Forward Justin Minaya & a dunk by Hinson.  And while the Gamecocks took their 34-32 lead, the Gators went over three minutes without a point.  That drought ended with over a minute left in the half when Bassett hit a layup to tie the score at 34.

The final minute of the first half saw Hinson hitting his second three pointer of the half & a jumper by Myers, who along with the Gators' Hudson, led all scorers with 12 points.  Those five points helped the Gamecocks head to the locker room with a 39-37 halftime lead.

Both teams in the first half had one player in double figures, committed seven turnovers but because the Gamecocks shot seven for thirteen on three pointers, they were able to end the first half lead with that modest lead.  

Trailing by two entering the second half, Florida started the final 20 minutes on an 11-0 run, highlighted first by a four point play from Allen, four more points from Guard Chris Chiozza & another three pointer from Allen, assisted by Chiozza.  It took South Carolina nearly four minutes but they ended the Gators' run when Myers hit a three pointer.  

The Gators lead was eight 50-42 but six straight points by the Gamecocks cut the lead to two.  And after a jumper by Gators Forward Egor Koulechov, two free throws from Silva pulled the Gamecocks even again at 53.  Koulechov added a three pointer giving Florida a 56-53 lead.  

After Koulechov's three pointer, for the next three and a half minutes, the two teams played a seesaw battle including five lead changes.  The final lead change came after Silva hit an old-school three pointer & Guard Frank Booker hit a three pointer, making the score 65-60 with under seven minutes left in the game.  

A scoreless drought for both teams lasted two minutes until Hudson hit a layup.  But Silva hit his own layup on the next possession making the South Carolina lead five again.  Then with just over four minutes left in the game, Koulechov hit a jumper making the Gators' deficit three again.

The remaining four minutes of the game saw the Gamecocks, even with the Gators getting four free throws from Chiozza & two layups from Forward Kevarrius Hayes, maintain at least a three point .  And South Carolina was able to seal the upset win, with Booker hitting four free throws in the final minute.

Florida will look to rebound & start a new winning streak when they host Baylor on Saturday afternoon at 12pm.

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