Jan. 18, 2017
COLUMBIA, S.C. — No. 24/24 South Carolina (15-3, 5-0 SEC) powered past No. 19/21 Florida (14-4, 5-1 SEC), 57-53, down the stretch Wednesday night in a battle of unbeaten teams in SEC play at Colonial Life Arena. Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell led all scorers with 20 points, moving into the top 10 in Carolina history in career points scored in the contest.
Both teams were scoreless at the first media timeout with 15:48 on the clock. Carolina and Florida were a combined 0-5 from the field with nine turnovers between the two squads early on. The game’s first hoop came at the 14:12 mark when Florida’s Kasey Hill stole the ball and laid it in on the other end. Another steal-layup by Hill on the ensuing possession put the Gators in front 4-0 with 13:55 to go.
Freshman Rakym Felder knocked down a 3 from the corner to put the Gamecocks on the board with 12:27 on the clock, and the score remained 4-3 until the next media timeout.
Right out of the media timeout, Felder connected on another 3, this one from the right wing to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the night, 6-4, with 11:32 remaining in the half. South Carolina’s first three hoops came from behind the arch, as senior Justin McKie knocked down a long-ball with 10:22 left to make it 9-6.
The score was all knotted up at 13-13 at the under-eight media timeout with 7:21 to go. After the team’s combined for just seven points in the first eight minutes, they combined for 19 in the next 4:30. Carolina held a 15-11 edge on the glass early.
The Gators rallied and went on 10-3 run to take a 23-16 lead at the final media timeout with 3:44 left in the first half. The team’s traded baskets the rest of the half, as Florida took a 28-21 lead at halftime. Hill led all scorers with 11 at the break. Felder had seven at the half to lead the Gamecocks. Carolina shot 7-for-30 (23 percent) and the Gators were 12-of-31 in the opening stanza (39 percent).
The Gamecocks opened half two on a 5-1 run thanks to four points from sophomore Chris Silva to cut the deficit to three, 29-26, with 18:23 to go. Carolina pushed the run to 9-2 and tied the game 30-30 at the first media timeout of the second half with 15:47 to go. A free throw by freshman Maik Kotsar put the Gamecocks in front 31-30 with 13:35 on the clock, giving the team its first lead since the 10:22 mark of the opening half.
An and-1 transition bucket by Thornwell gave the Gamecocks their largest lead of the game, 35-30, at the under 12 media timeout with 11:58 to go. The Carolina defense held Florida scoreless for 5:44 to that point with their last point coming at the free throw line at the 17:42 mark. The Gators were 0-for-8 to start the second half, their last field goal coming with 1:01 to go in the opening half. A Devin Robinson dunk ended the draught for Florida with 11:20 on the clock to make it 35-32.
A pair of free throws trimmed the Gamecock lead to 40-38 with 8:49 left in the game. The score remained 40-38 at the under eight media timeout with 7:59 to go. A Thornwell made 3 pushed the lead back to five, 45-40, forcing a timeout by Gator head coach Mike White with 5:51 to go in the game.
An and-1 by Silva put Carolina up six, 48-42, but Florida answered with a 4-0 run to make it 48-46 just before the final media timeout with 2:59 on the clock. Florida came within one, 52-51, but Thornwell knocked down two huge free throws on the ensuing possession to make it 54-51 with 53 seconds to go.
The Gators came within one again after a bucket by Chris Chiozza with 40 seconds remaining. Carolina turned to Dozier to make a play on the next possession. The Columbia, S.C., native answered the bell and took it hard to the rack from the left wing and kissed in a contested left-handed layup to make it 56-53 with 22 seconds left. The Gamecocks forced a turnover on the next possession and Thornwell hit a big free throw to make it a two-possession game, 57-53, with 16 seconds left.
Florida guard Canyon Barry attempted a 3 at the opposite end, but the shot wouldn’t fall and the ball would be out of bounds to Carolina. Dozier threw a baseball pass to a wide-open Thornwell who ran out the clock, sealing the 57-53 win.
Silva (11) and Dozier (10) joined Thornwell in double-figures. Freshman Maik Kotsar led the team with nine rebounds. The Gamecock defense held the Gators to 35 percent shooting (19-of-54) for the game (30 percent in the second half) and forced 16 turnovers.
South Carolina held Florida without a 3-point field goal (0-for-17), which an ended an 850-game streak of with at least one made 3.
- South Carolina is 5-0 in league play for just the second time in school history.
- The Gamecocks are 11-1 at home this season and have won 27 of their last 31 at Colonial Life Arena.
- South Carolina has now held eight opponents to 60 points or less this season.
- Senior Sindarius Thornwell is now 18-22 (81.8 percent) from the free throw line this season in the final five minutes and overtime of games.
- Thornwell’s 20-point outing was the 80th game of his career in double-figures and the 21st game of his career with 20-plus. The Lancaster, S.C., native is now 10th on the all-time scoring list for the Gamecocks with 1,496 career points.
- With the win tonight, The Gamecocks have now beaten Florida in consecutive outings for the first time since 2011.
- Carolina is 3-0 vs. ranked foes this season.
South Carolina travels to face No. 5/5 Kentucky on Saturday at Rupp Arena. The game marks Carolina’s first road game in the series since the 2015 league campaign. The matchup will be broadcast on ESPN with a 6 p.m. ET tip. Tom Hart (pxp), Kara Lawson (analyst) and Kaylee Hartung (sidelines) will have the call.
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