Looking to avenge their only Southeastern Conference East division loss of the season, the No. 17/19 Florida Gators (19-5, 8-2 SEC) traveled to Columbia, SC on a mission and took down the South Carolina Gamecocks (13-9, 4-5 SEC) 79-60 Wednesday evening at the Colonial Life Arena.
Junior point guard Erving Walker led the Gators with a season- and game-high 25 points, and senior forward Chandler Parsons added 14 points and 12 rebounds for his third-straight double-double and fourth in the last six games.
Florida started the game on a 9-0 run as South Carolina missed their first eight shots from the field. The Gamecocks answered back by scoring seven-straight points but failed to even-up with the Gators. UF closed the first half with an 8-0 run to take a 14-point lead and entered the locker rooms up 38-27 after USC hit a three toward the end of the half.
Though Florida outplayed South Carolina early on, both teams coughed up 10 turnovers; the Gators shot 60.7 percent from the floor while the Gamecocks only hit 39.3 percent of their attempts to start the game.
Florida kept their collective foot on the pedal in the second half, using a 9-2 run to jump ahead 53-35 with 13:58 left. The Gators would eventually take a game-high 19-point lead, 57-38, with 11:32 remaining and ended up tying that mark on a three-pointer by sophomore guard Kenny Boynton with the clock running down at the end of the game.
Walker scored his 25 points on 7-for-9 shooting and hit 4-of-5 attempts from downtown, while Parsons nearly had the team’s first triple-double since 2009 by also registering eight assists. Redshirt senior center Vernon Macklin, who made all six of his first-half shots for 14 points, finished with 16 to go along with six boards.
South Carolina G Bruce Ellington, who scored 23 points against Florida on Jan. 15, was held to a team-high 14 points on 6-of-19 shooting. F Sam Muldrow added 10 points and led the Gamecocks with six rebounds.
With their first win in Columbia since 2008, Florida has now defeated South Carolina in 21 of their last 27 meetings. Head coach Billy Donovan won his 350th career game in orange and blue Wednesday as he watched his team improve to 16-1 when holding opponents under 70 points this season. The victory over the Gamecocks also marks the first time the Gators have won six road games since the 2005-06 season.
Having now won 11 of their last 13 games, Florida returns home to face Tennessee on Saturday at 6 p.m. The game will air live on ESPN.
Photo Credit: Mary Ann Chastain/Associated Press