Wednesday, January 18, 2017

UF Basketball: No. 19 Florida Drops First SEC Contest to No. 24 South Carolina

The No. 19 Florida Gators (14-4, 5-1 SEC) suffered their first SEC loss to the No. 24 South Carolina Gamecocks (15-3, 5-0 SEC) by a score of 57-53.

Coming into the hostile environment of Colonial Life Arena, the Gators had quite the challenge ahead of them with a Gamecock team that was 10-1 at home.

They scored 28 points in the first half and carried a seven-point lead into halftime. When it was time to resume play, the Gamecock defense shut down the Gator offense. Eight minutes went by before Florida registered a field goal, and by then they were trailing 35-32. The Gators kept it close down the stretch, but would never regain the lead.

Shooting Woes
Florida outshot South Carolina 35% to 29%, but it was the three-point game that killed the Gators. It wasn't that the Gamecocks were lighting it up from beyond the arc though. In fact, Florida essentially shot themselves in the foot as they failed to make NOT EVEN ONE THREE-POINTER!

Florida went an astonishing 0-17 from three-point land, which I can honestly say I have never seen in all my years watching them. In fact, this very feat has not happened to Florida since 1992. If the Gators even made just 1/4 of these shots, they probably would have won the game. That's the game of basketball though. It was simply just an off night.

South Carolina's Leading Men
South Carolina's 35-point second half was propelled in most part by senior guard Sindarius Thornwell. He scored 20 points on 5-11 shooting from the field. He got his money's worth from the free throw line, as he converted 9 of 13 attempts. The last of these nine makes would be the ultimate dagger that put South Carolina up 57-53 with nine seconds to go in the game.

Aiding Thornwell in the comeback were sophomore forward Chris Silva and sophomore guard PJ Dozier. Silva took care of all the dirty work in the paint, as he collected seven rebounds (six defensive and one offensive), while also managing 10 points. He was a perfect 5-5 from the charity strike as well. Dozier went just 2-9 on field goal attempts, but still contributed 10 points with six makes on nine trips to the free throw line. 

Florida's Leading Men
Even in a losing effort, there were some good individual performances for the Gators. Some players worth mentioning are Kasey Hill, Canyon Barry, and Devin Robinson.

As the senior point guard for Florida, Kasey Hill put on a good showing in this game. He went 5-8 from the field while registering 11 points. His point total was second-best on the team, and had he not fouled out with under two minutes to go, he may have been the team's leading scorer.

Instead that honor goes to graduate transfer shooting guard Canyon Barry. Coming off the bench, Barry logged 13 points while going 4-13 from the field. He made all five of his underhanded free throw attempts but was 0-6 on his three-pointers.

Last, but not least, is Devin Robinson. The junior small forward scored just eight points, but was a monster on the boards as he corralled a game-high 10 rebounds (five offensive and five defensive). He went 4-11 on field goal attempts, but was also the only starter without multiple personal fouls.

As a side note, I will briefly allude to bench players Chris Chiozza and Keith Stone. Starting with the junior backup point guard, Chiozza did a good job being unselfish as he dished out a team-high four assists in the loss tonight. As for Stone, the redshirt freshman forward got into foul trouble early. However, he made the most of his minutes as he brought down six boards (five defensive and one offensive).

Final Thoughts
While previewing this month in my December recap article, the South Carolina was one of the opponents that I thought the Gators might have a problem with. Coach Frank Martin has built a quality basketball club, and defeating them in their building is a very tall task for any SEC team who isn't Kentucky.

Florida will bounce back though, as I doubt they will ever have another game where they fail to register a three-point make. With their seven-game winning steak over and SEC record finally blemished, the Gators will turn their attention to a home contest with the Vanderbilt Commodores (8-10, 2-4 SEC) this Saturday. Tipoff is at noon and the game can be seen on CBS.

As for South Carolina, they will ride the momentum from this win into a big matchup with the Kentucky Wildcats (16-2, 6-0 SEC) on Saturday. This contest at Rupp Arena will determine who gets sole possession of first place in this early SEC race. Needless to say that my money is on Kentucky in this one. Tipoff is at 6 p.m. and this touted matchup can be seen on ESPN.

*All stats accredited to



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