Rallying back from a double-digit deficit they were stuck in most of the game, the Florida Gators (13-4, 2-1 SEC) eventually fell 72-69 to the South Carolina Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL after missing three free throws inside the final four minutes of the game.
The Gators were only 12-for-22 from the line as a team and failed in their bid for a come-from-behind win even though they were provided ample opportunities as the second half drew to a close. Florida missed five-straight free throws including four on three-point plays, and junior point guard Erving Walker uncharacteristically missed the first shot of a one-and-one.
The team’s leading scorer and best free throw shooter, Walker finished the game with a team-high 17 points on 6-of-12 shooting but missed two key free throws. Sophomore guard Kenny Boynton, the team’s second leading scorer, was an anemic 3-for-10 (1-of-4 from downtown) with nine points.
Tied at 18 in the first half, South Carolina went on a 15-2 run over five minutes to take a game-high 13-point lead. The Gamecocks did a great job of keeping Gators redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin out of the paint in the opening half, limiting him to two baskets on seven shot attempts.
South Carolina kept their double-digit lead for most of the second half, that is until Florida went on a 10-0 run to tie the game at 59. Senior forward Chandler Parsons and Boynton hit back-to-back treys, Walker followed up with a layup, and senior F Alex Tyus added one of his own to complete the run.
The Gamecocks responded and went back up 63-59, but Walker drained a three from the corner to bring the game within one with 1:40 remaining. South Carolina F Sam Muldrow hit a dagger trey, and G Bruce Ellington connected on a runner to force fouls and free throws with the clock winding down.
Ellington led the Gamecocks with a game-high 23 points on 8-of-15 shooting. Three other South Carolina starters, including Muldrow, scored 10, and the team connected on 73.3 percent of their free throw attempts.
Gators freshman C Patric Young, who played 19 minutes off the bench, scored a career-high 12 points while going 5-for-6 from the field. Macklin finished with a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds. Tyus added 10 points.
Florida, which had won five-straight games and eight of their last nine contests, had both streaks snapped while losing their third home game of the season. The Gators failed to score 70 points for the first time since Dec. 22, 2010, and were out-rebounded (36-32) for only the third time this season.
UF hopes to rebound from their tough home loss as they travel to Auburn for their next game on Thursday at 7 p.m. The contest will air live on ESPN.