Looking to begin a stretch of three games in six days on a high note, the No. 11/12 Florida Gators (18-4, 6-1 SEC) used a game-high 24 points by junior guard Kenny Boynton and a double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds from freshman G Bradley Beal to top the South Carolina Gamecocks (9-12, 1-6 SEC) 74-66 on Thursday night at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Boynton and Beal were two of three Gators to score in double figures Friday as senior point guard Erving Walker chipped in 14 points with seven assists, four boards, two steals and just three turnovers in the winning effort.
As has been tradition recently, Florida got off to their usual hot start and used a 14-2 run as well as a 12-1 rebounding advantage to take a 17-point lead with 9:55 left in the first half. South Carolina responded with a quick 6-0 scoring stretch to cut their deficit to 11, but UF regained their half-high lead with five minutes left until the break.
The Gamecocks, however, were the aggressors at the end of the half, outscoring the Gators 9-1 over the final 3:54 as UF fell silent from the field. Florida still headed into the locker rooms with a nine-point lead as well as a 23-11 advantage on the glass.
After giving up a basket to start the second half, the Gators used a 6-0 run including consecutive jumpers by Walker to leap back ahead 12 points. Trading baskets the rest of the way, the Gamecocks got within six with 4:08 to play, but a highlight dunk by Beal appeared to push the momentum back in UF’s favor.
That would not wind up being the case for Florida, which gave up back-to-back three-pointers to South Carolina G Bruce Ellington and forward Anthony Gill, decreasing their advantage to five points with 2:51 remaining in the contest.
The Gators began consistently hitting their free throws late in the contest, but Gamecocks G Brenton Williams hit a transition three from the corner to put USC down five again with 50.1 seconds left.
It would be too little too late for South Carolina, which sent Florida to the line four times in the last minute and saw the Gators hit seven-of-eight free throws to close out the team’s 12th consecutive victory in the O’Dome.
The Gators have now won six-straight games since falling to Tennessee in their SEC opener with victories of eight points or more in all but one contest.
Coming off the bench for the fifth consecutive contest, sophomore center Patric Young scored just five points and had four turnovers but grabbed five boards (four offensive) in 25 minutes. Beal’s 11 rebounds were a game-high, and sophomore F Will Yeguete added eight grabs off the glass.
Junior F Erik Murphy had his worst shooting performance of the season, going 2-of-10 from the field (0-for-4 from downtown), but did notch six rebounds.
With eight attempts from three, Boynton (656) moved into fourth place on Florida’s all-time list, passing Lee Humphrey. Similarly, Walker and his 11 field goal attempts moved him past Brett Nelson (1,197) and up to ninth all-time at UF (1,201).
The Gators look to keep their streaks going when they host Vanderbilt on Saturday in their second of three games over six days. Tip off is set for 1 p.m. live on CBS.