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Feb. 2, 2012

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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – The Gamecocks pulled within six points, but solid free throw shooting down the stretch saw No. 12/11 Florida escape with a 74-66 win in SEC action at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville on Thursday night. The Gamecocks fall to 9-12, 1-6 SEC with the loss, while Florida improves to 18-4, 6-1 in league play.

Sophomore forward Damontre Harris had an impressive night for the Gamecocks with a near double-double, scoring 12 points, collecting nine rebounds and matching a career high with six blocks. Sophomore guard Bruce Ellington added 15 points and three assists.

Florida was led by junior guard Kenny Boynton with 24 points, while senior guard Irving Walker added 14 and freshman Bradley Beal added 17 and 11 rebounds.

After trailing by as many as 17 midway through the first half, the Gamecocks used a 9-1 run over the final 3:52 to pull within nine at the halftime break. Ellington led the Gamecocks with eight points in the set, with Harris adding six and four blocks.

The Gators held a five-point advantage at the under-16 minute media timeout and extended their lead to 10 points at 18-8 with 13:16 remaining. The Gamecocks continued to battle, as Harris was solid from the free throw line, and Cooke hit back-to-back jumpers late in the half.

Florida’s Beal hit the only Gator point in the final minutes of the half on a free throw with 57 seconds remaining on the clock, and a layup by RJ Slawson at the buzzer put the score at 37-28 Florida at the break.

The teams traded baskets through the first part of the second half before the Gators took a timeout with 10:53 remaining after a 7-2 South Carolina run over the previous 3:23.

The Florida lead hovered around 10 points midway through the half. A layup by Cooke with 6:43 remaining pulled the Gamecocks within eight at 54-46. Following a missed 3 by Cooke, a tip-in by Gill saw the Gator lead at just six with 4:11 remaining.

Twice in the final three minutes the Gamecocks pulled within six. After a layup by Boynton with 55 seconds on the clock, sophomore guard Brenton Williams sank a 3 from the near corner for Carolina to bring the score to 67-62, but solid free throw shooting in the final minute by Florida saw the Gators escape with the 74-66 victory.

South Carolina returns to Colonial Life Arena on Saturday to host No. 1 Kentucky in a contest to be televised on ESPN at 6 p.m. ET.