The No. 10 Florida Gators (12-2, 1-0 SEC) opened Southeastern Conference play with a dominant 74-58 victory over the South Carolina Gamecocks (7-7, 0-1 SEC) on Wednesday evening at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida won its 24th-straight game in the O’Dome, matching a program record for most consecutive home victories, and improved to 13-5 under head coach Billy Donovan in SEC openers (9-0 at home).
OnlyGators.com breaks down UF’s 12th win with The Fastbreak.
It was over when: Despite leading by double digits nearly the entire game, Florida was in a rut midway through the second half after seeing its advantage drop to single digits a few minutes earlier. Suddenly, the Gators erupted on a 12-0 run – bookended by a pair of long baskets (one three) from sophomore guard Michael Frazier II – to take a 63-42 lead with 7:08 to play. The Gamecocks were never able to fight back. Frazier finished with eight points and four boards but hit just 2-of-7 attempts from beyond the arc.
Prominent player: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin got back into his early-season form on Wednesday, one game after finding himself in Donovan’s doghouse. Wilbekin led Florida with a team-high 17 points on 5-of-11 shooting, draining 3-of-6 attempts from downtown and all four of his free throws. He also dished three assists while not committing a single turnover on the evening.
Important injury: Wilbekin drove to the hoop with 2:17 remaining in the contest but came down badly on his right ankle. It was hurting him so much, in fact, that he had to be helped off the court by trainer Dave “Duke” Werner and could not put any pressure on the leg. The Gators after the game simply acknowledged that the injury was a right ankle sprain and did not provide any information as to the severity.
Update: Donovan listed Wilbekin as “questionable” for UF’s next game. OnlyGators.com learned Thursday morning that Wilbekin’s sprained ankle is considered moderate. If he misses a game, it will likely be for precautionary reasons.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak after the, well, break.
Highlights: See below.
Significant stretch: Florida started the game by outscoring South Carolina 14-1, hitting six of its first seven shots while forcing seven turnovers in six minutes and limiting the visitors to 0-for-6 shooting from the field. The Gators actually wound up holding the Gamecocks without a field goal for the first 9:25 of the game as USC missed its first seven shots and committed eight early turnovers.
Perfect plays: With 7:33 remaining in the first half, freshman point guard Kasey Hill picked the pocket of Gamecocks G Duane Notice, charging to the hoop with the ball before dropping it down for a no-look pass in the paint to senior forward Casey Prather, who slammed it home. One possession later, Wilbekin made a similarly impressive play, getting into the paint with a deft spin move and dishing the ball to Prather for a second-straight dunk that put Gators ahead 26-10. Hill spread things out with five points, two dimes, two boards and two steals, while Prather left the game with 13 points on perfect 5-of-5 shooting with two rebounds, three assists, two swipes and a block.
Late in the second half, redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith was standing on the three-point line when he saw senior center Patric Young open in the paint with only one defender near him, so he executed a sharp bounce pass into the big man for a big, twisting slam. The dish was one of Finney-Smith’s game-high five assists; Young hit 6-of-7 shots for 13 points and grabbed team-highs of seven boards and three steals.
What it means: The Gators have now won six-straight games and 11 of their last 12, improving to 20-7 all-time against the Gamecocks in the O’Dome (14-4 under Donovan). UF is 41-22 all-time against USC, boasting a 25-11 record since Donovan took over.
Next up: Florida will hop on a plane for its first true road game since Dec. 2 when it faces Arkansas on Saturday at 1 p.m. on ESPN2. The teams split a pair of meetings last season with each squad winning decisively on their own home court.