Florida Gators basketball (8-6, 1-0 SEC) bounced back from a tough end to its non-conference slate to earn a closer-than-it-should-have-been 72-68 victory over the surging South Carolina Gamecocks (9-4, 0-1 SEC) on Wednesday evening at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, South Carolina.
“The thing that was encouraging to me was I felt like we battled and fought as a group, collectively together as a team. For me, that was a step in the right direction for this group,” head coach Billy Donovan said after the victory.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Wednesday’s action with 10 quick-hitters:
It was over when: Leading by five with less than a minute to play, redshirt senior forward Jacob Kurtz hit two clutch free throws to push Florida ahead by seven. South Carolina responded with a corner three by Mindaugas Kacinas to cut its deficit to four with 34.1 remaining, and Kacinas hit another trey – following two free throws from redshirt junior forward Dorian Finney-Smith – to make it a three-point game. Junior guard Michael Frazier II then stepped up to hit two free throws to increase his team’s lead to five only to see freshman point guard Chris Chiozza foul the Gamecocks on a made layup, cutting UF’s advantage to two with 6.4 seconds left. Redshirt junior G Eli Carter was the last Florida player at the line, solidifying his team’s lead at four points with two made free throws; Kacinas missed another triple attempt at the buzzer. The Gators went 8-for-8 from the charity stripe over the final 43 seconds.
Significant stretch: Struggling early in the second half, Florida took advantage of a seven-minute field goal drought for South Carolina with a 13-2 run started by a game-tying triple from Frazier. The Gators used a trey by Finney-Smith and three free throws to take a 54-46 lead with less than nine minutes to play. UF held on to that advantage for most of the remainder of the game.