FINAL: SOUTH CAROLINA 71, FLORIDA 69
Gainesville, FL- I challenge anyone reading this to find me a more Jekyll and Hyde team than this iteration of the Florida Gators men’s basketball team. The Gators found a way to somehow lose their SEC opener against a bad South Carolina team despite having the Gamecocks on the ropes no less than three times.
The Gators fall to 8-5 on the season and fail to maintain the momentum they gained after blowing out Butler in their non-conference finale a week ago. South Carolina improved to 6-7 on the year, but more importantly, begin the SEC slate with a major win over the Gators.
JEKYLL: After the two teams sort of felt each other out for the opening two minutes resulting in one made free throw, the Gators finally found their stroke. Freshman guard Noah Locke began a streak of three consecutive made treys (two by Locke and one by KeyVaughn Allen) and Florida took a 9-1 lead early. The Gators would extend their lead to 16-6 and furthermore as their defense played outstanding. The Gators owned a 30-17 with only 5:31 remaining in the period.
HYDE: Then the Gamecocks made a run. Or maybe Florida made the run. It seems that in every game this season, the Gators hit a wall at some point. South Carolina would go on a 15-4 run before Allen’s layup prior to the halftime buzzer.
The Gators did an amazing job of attacking the basket in the beginning of the contest and forced SC coach Frank Martin to sit his best player, Chris Silva after only two minutes in the opening half.
JEKYLL: The Gators opened the second half much like the first. The Gators led by as many as 14 points with 11:05 left in regulation after an Isaiah Stokes tip-in. With their bad stretch behind them, it looked like Florida would go into cruise control and win the game.
HYDE: In reality, the Gators went through yet another funk. Florida failed to make a field goal in the final 7:17 of the game and slowly watched their lead dwindle and disappear in front of the home crowd.
With Florida trailing by one, the refs called Maik Kotsar for an intentional foul after hooking the arm of Kevarrius Hayes. Upon review, which clearly showed the correct call was made, the officials changed the call. An intentional foul would have give Hayes two free-throws and Florida would have retained possession. Hayes would miss his first attempt, but would nail the second one after a USC timeout.
Forward Felipe Haase threw a court-length pass to Silva who clearly pushed Hayes with both arms, and Silva was able to dunk the ball with no Gators nearby and send Carolina to the win.
Either of these late calls could have changed the game, but the reality is Florida deserved to lose this game. They had USC on the ropes three times, but could never deliver the knock out blow. When you play a team that plays the type of game that the Gamecocks do, you can’t let the game come down to the officials.
- Noah Locke led the Gators with 17 points, knocking down 5-15 from beyond the three point line.
- Fellow freshman Andrew Nembhard finished with 10 points and 7 assists and made all four of his free-throw attempts.
- Senior KeyVaughn Allen finished with ten points, but pretty much disappeared in the second half.
- Florida continues to get nothing from Kevarrius Hayes who finished with 3 points and three boards (in nine minutes due to foul trouble), and quite frankly, I have no idea why he is in the starting lineup. Isaiah Stokes and Dontay Basset both played more and looked better. Bassett and Stokes finished with a combined 12 points and 6 rebounds.
- Florida forced 22 turnovers, well above the Gamecocks season average, but they allowed USC to shot 45% from the field.
- The Gators made 14-20 from the charity stripe which is a solid 70%.
Florida will travel to Arkansas on Wednesday. The Razorbacks defeated Texas A&M to open SEC play and have a 10-3 record overall on the season. Arkansas is 9-1 at Bud Walton Arena this season.