Florida basketball score, takeaways: No. 22 Gators go cold as South Carolina pulls off upset

By Jake Winderman
February 3, 2021
Florida basketball score, takeaways: No. 22 Gators go cold as South Carolina pulls off upset
Basketball

Image Credit: GatorsMBK / Twitter

No. 22 Florida Gators basketball saw a four-game winning streak fall by the wayside Wednesday night in an uninspiring 72-66 loss at home to the sub-.500 South Carolina Gamecocks. A dominant performance in the paint led South Carolina to a thorough defeat of Florida (10-5, 6-4 SEC) as the Gators struggled scoring over the final 13 minutes of the game.

AJ Lawson poured in 22 of the Gamecocks’ 72 points on 9 of 16 shooting from the field. Despite not making a single three-pointer over the final 20 minutes, South Carolina outscored Florida 37-26 in the final frame.

What went down in the Gators’ most disappointing loss of the season? Find out more in our Fastbreak takeaways.

It was over when … South Carolina went on a 13-1 run over the final 6:36 to turn a four-point deficit into a six-point win. The Gators ended the game 0 of 8 from the field over the final 6 minutes and just 3 of 20 from the floor over the final 13 minutes. UF was outscored 50-30 in the paint and outrebounded 43-35 despite finding significant success winning the battle down low over the last two weeks.

First half focus: The Gators came out extremely flat to start the game, and the Gamecocks took advantage. South Carolina led by as many as 10 points, making the most of Florida’s unwillingness to defend with any sort of physicality. Led by junior guard Noah Locke’s 13 points, the Gators dominated the final 12+ minutes of the opening frame, outscoring South Carolina, 26-11. The Gamecocks only made 3 of 13 shots to end the half, scoring only two points over the final 3:46 until the break. Florida was 11 of 17 from two-point range, picking up for a lackluster effort from long range.

Exceptional efforts: Despite the loss, three Gators had nights worth highlighting. Sophomore point guard Tre Mann finished two rebounds shy of his first career double-double with 17 points, eight boards (seven in the first half), three assists and three steals. While some of Mann’s indecisiveness in the second half led to Florida’s eventual demise, his ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor was noteworthy.

Locke continued his strong shooting ways, tallying 15 points, but he only mustered two in the second half. He has now scored at least 12 points in each of the Gators’ last five games. Colin Castleton struggled to put the ball in the basket from close-range, finishing with 11 points on an abysmal 4 of 12 shooting, but made up for it on the defensive end and on the glass. The junior center tallied seven rebounds and seven blocks. He now has two games of 7+ blocks this season and ranks 17th in the nation in block percentage.

Odds and ends: Florida is now 46-28 all-time against South Carolina, 21-10 in the O’Dome and just 3-6 under head coach Mike White … seven of the last 10 games between UF and USC have been decided by seven points or less … the Gators had a season-high 12 blocks … Florida is now 0-3 this season when scoring 69 points or less, 20-47 all-time under White … UF is now 6-5 this season when allowing 70+ points, 33-45 all-time under White … sophomore guard Scottie Lewis went 0 of 4 from the field with just one point in 14 minutes

What it means: Florida has now lost two Quadrant III games (Kentucky, South Carolina) resulting in a couple of clear blemishes on its NCAA Tournament resume. After the Gators finally garnered their first AP Top 25 ranking of the season (first since November of 2019), they immediately followed it up with a loss to an obviously worse and less talented Gamecocks team at home.

The loss won’t cost Florida a shot at the NCAA Tournament, but it certainly will affect its seeding on Selection Sunday. If UF’s 85-80 road win over No. 5 West Virginia bumped it up a seed-line in the NCAA Tournament, then its 72-66 loss to South Carolina bumped them right back down a spot.

Like most Frank Martin-coached teams, South Carolina came into Wednesday night’s game with a taste for blood and an eagerness to get blatantly physical on defense and in the interior. Florida showed up for a walk in the park, expecting their ranking to do the talking for them.

What’s next? The Gators are now past the halfway point of their SEC schedule. They’ll have two days off before taking on LSU in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Saturday at 2 p.m. ET. Florida won the first duel between these two teams, 83-79, last month in Gainesville, Florida.

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