It was a tale of two halves for the Florida Gators in their SEC opener against South Carolina. The first half of the first half and the second half of the second half.
After opening strong, holding Carolina without a field goal for almost the first nine minutes of the first half and shooting out to a 34-14 lead, the Gators lost focus through the middle part of the game allowing the Gamecocks to hang around staying within 8-12 points.
The Gamecocks went to a straight zone defense after watching the Gators go 1-8 from long range to start the game while getting 18 points in the paint. The zone was effective as the Gators repeatedly settled for long range shots and continued to clang shots off the rim which allowed the Gamecocks to make some runs and stay within range.
By the ten minute mark of the second half, the Gators were able to effectively break the zone by moving the ball inside for some easy paint points as well as finally start draining some three point shots. They were able to extend the lead back out to the 20 point mark and the Gamecocks were never able to recover as Florida closed out a strong 74-58 victory.
The Gators were led by Scottie Wilbekin’s 17 points on 5-11 shooting and 3-6 from three point range. Unfortunately for the Gators, Wilbekin suffered an ankle injury late, a bad sign for a team lacking in depth as they begin their conference schedule.
Patrick Young (6-7) and Casey Prather (5-5) both finished with 13 points as the Gators dominated the paint. Dorian Finney-Smith, Michael Frazier, and Will Yeguette chipped in 8 points a piece.
The Gators shot a fantastic 57.8% (26-45) from the field but only 26.3% (5-19) from three point range. Amazingly, they drained 21-26 (80.7%) from inside the three point arc.
The Gators were out rebounded 26-25 and continued their horrid assist to turnover ratio with 16 assists to 15 turnovers. Additionally, their lack of energy after their quick start and their inability to solve a simple zone for a long stretch of the game was troubling as tougher matchups await.
With the victory, the Gators move to 12-2 (1-0 SEC) on the season matching their school record with their 24th consecutive home victory which is fifth longest active streak in the nation.
Next up a Saturday road trip to Fayetteville to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks, a traditionally tough matchup for the Gators. Game time us 1 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPN 2.