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Feb. 21, 2007

Box Score

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) – Al Horford scored 20 points, Chris Richard added a season-high 14 and third-ranked Florida rebounded from its first loss in more than two months with a 63-49 victory against South Carolina on Wednesday night.

The Gators, whose 17-game winning streak was snapped Saturday at Vanderbilt, clinched the Southeastern Conference regular-season championship – their second outright league title and first since 1989.

And the defending national champions got to cut down nets for the fourth time in the last year.

The Gators (25-3, 12-1) endured another slow start, a problem that has plagued the defending national champions this season and contributed to the loss against the Commodores. But Florida got going midway through the first half and dominated the Gamecocks (13-13, 3-10) most of the night.

Horford presented the most problems for South Carolina.

The 6-foot-10 center scored on putbacks, left-handed layups, spinning drives in the lane and even hit a few jumpers. He helped the Gators with one of their best defensive efforts, too, finishing with at least four blocks.

Joakim Noah had six points and 13 rebounds, while Corey Brewer had six points and a career-high 12 rebounds for Florida.

Tre’ Kelley led the Gamecocks with 19 points on 8-of-20 shooting.

The Gators led by 19 early in the second half, but South Carolina shot considerably better after halftime and trimmed the lead to 50-41 with about 5 minutes to play.

Florida went inside from there, getting baskets from Noah, Horford and Richard to make it 56-42 with 2 minutes remaining.

Lee Humphrey put the exclamation point on the big victory with a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired with 46.9 seconds left, helping the Gators improve to 17-0 at home.

The Gators missed their first six shots and gave South Carolina plenty of chances to build a lead. But the Gamecocks weren’t much better from the field, making three of their first 20 shots.

Florida eventually got things going and put together a 20-0 run that made it 26-8 late in the first half.

South Carolina struggled to match up with Florida’s big men all night.

The Gamecocks also were woeful from the field, especially in the opening half. They were 5-of-26 shooting and 0-for-5 from 3-point range.

The Gators took advantage of South Carolina’s problems and built a big lead, up 30-13 at the break. It was the fewest points South Carolina had scored in the first half since January 2003.