Not a lot went right for Florida tonight as every bounce seemed to go in South Carolina’s favor as the Gators fell to the Gamecocks by a score of 77-72. Whether it was the normally horrible shooting Gamecocks going 11-21 (52%) from the 3-point line or three Gators going to secure an uncontested defensive rebound down the stretch that led Egor Koulechov to have to throw the ball away (it was a 3-point game at the time with 1:54 left, the ensuing possession ended with a tough Chris Silva jumper that he drilled in the face of Kevarrius Hayes to stretch the South Carolina lead to 5) Lady Luck seemed to be on the side of the Gamecocks. All night the Gators struggled to generate good looks against the stout Frank Martin defense and on their own end of the floor were struggling to guard the interior as foul drawing ninja Chris Silva continually sought contact. Tonight was a reminder that there are no easy games in the SEC and you need to be ready to fight every single night, especially to protect your home floor.
South Carolina Shooting
Going into tonight’s game as one of the worst shooting teams in the country the Gamecocks must have saved up all their makes from past games to use against the Gators. 288th in the country in 3-point percentage the Gamecocks went 11-21 from the land beyond and 290th in the country in free throw percentage they went 18-22 from the stripe. A bit of this can be chalked up to some good old fashioned bad luck for the Gators, but I also think they went to hard for double teams early in the game and allowed too many wide open three point shots for the Gamecocks. Players always shoot better once they see their first shot go in, and the Gators giving up open threes early gave the Gamecock shooters the confidence to hit tougher shots later. In terms of free throws? South Carolina just shot well over their average percentage. Nothing you can really do to defend that.
Grad Transfer Show
Both teams had graduate transfers play great tonight. The Gators’ Egor Koulechov went for 16 points and 9 rebounds, an especially great mark on the glass against a spectacular rebounding South Carolina team. For the Gamecocks, former University of Maine player Wesley Myers was hitting ridiculous three after ridiculous three on his way to a 22 point, 4 assist, 4 steal night. Veteran players always seem to step up in big games and both teams tonight were happy to have experienced grad transfers on their sides.
Dontay Bassett, a seldom used redshirt freshman, provided the best game of his career tonight setting a career high in points with 9 and providing some strong interior defense in a game that Florida needed him to provide frontcourt depth. Entering the game with the difficult task of bodying up the normally dominant Chris Silva, he was able to hold his own which should do wonders for his confidence. Bassett was able to pound with Silva down low and force some misses from South Carolina’s best interior player, much to the delight of the Gators bench. Especially until Florida’s frontcourt is totally healthy (and who knows when that could be) quality minutes from Bassett would be a huge luxury so hopefully he can continue to work hard and earn a regular shift.
Florida doesn’t often lose in the turnover margin but they were -3 tonight with some careless turnovers from multiple players. Though that isn’t a huge margin, in a close game it’s tough to think of the extra possessions you gave up that could have been offensive possessions for yourself. Even though South Carolina is a tremendous defensive team they don’t actually force a lot of turnovers and tonight Florida was just a lot more careless with the ball then they normally are. The Gators are going to play a tough defensive team in Baylor on Saturday and they will have to be a bit more careful with the basketball. One player who was good with the ball tonight? Point guard Chris Chiozza who only had 1 turnover to his 8 assists.
What’s Up Next
The Gators kick off the Big 12-SEC Challenge on Saturday hosting the Baylor Bears. This is an excellent opportunity for the Gators to play a great opponent and continue to better their NCAA Tournament resume. The Big 12 is considered by many national college basketball analysts to be the best conference in college basketball so if the Gators and the rest of the SEC can win this 10 game head-to-head matchup it will reflect strongly on the conference and help everyone in the league with NCAA Tournament selections and seeding. This could be a great day to sit on the couch for hours and cheer on some of the Gators’ conference rivals (but only for one day!).
What did you think of tonight’s performance by the Gators? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.