The last time the South Carolina Gamecocks came to the Stephen C. O’Connell Center the result was nothing short of a nightmare for the visitors. In the first half of last January’s 75-36 Florida victory (the third largest SEC win in school history up until that point) it took the Gators 2:44 to score their first bucket, but once they did, it was off to the races. It wasn’t so much Florida’s offense that was most important, but more importantly the complete ineptitude by South Carolina.
In the first half, the Gamecocks shot 14.3% from the field, making only 3-21 shots from the field and none from three-point range. The Gamecocks had more turnovers (11) than points (10) in the first half and the only reason they got to double figures was a technical foul called on Mike Rosario for hanging on the rim too long.
Sophomore Michael Frazier II came off the bench to score 12 points last year, but he knows things could be much different this time around.
“That was last year,” Frazier said. “We’re a different team this year. They’re a different team obviously. It’s going to be a fight. We know that. We’re going to have come in prepared and focused and play it like any other game.”
The leading three-point shooter in the SEC, Frazier wasn’t even aware of his accomplishment until Monday’s press conference when a reporter informed him during a question. Frazier says the achievement will be more of a target on his back than a badge of honor on his chest moving forward.
“Teams obviously are going to see that and try to take me out of the game,” Frazier said. “But we’re going to have to do a good job of finding our other options and making use of everybody else on the team.”
One of those “other options” will be senior Will Yeguete. The defensive-minded forward is coming off of a productive stretch of games around the holidays including his performance on December 21st against Fresno State when he came within a point of the fourth double-double of his career. The Gators will lean on his experience as they enter conference play.
“I think [senior leadership] helps a lot,” Yeguete said. “Knowing what to do to get ourselves started and get a win. It’s a different season now. We’re playing for something and we know it. I think it helps a lot having four seniors on the team.”
The long term goal for the Gators is a championship, but they could achieve a nice short term goal against the Gamecocks. A win and the Gators will have 24 straight home victories, matching the school record set in 2007. Last season’s South Carolina game was the 11th notch on the belt of the current streak which dates back to February of 2012. Frazier says Florida isn’t too concerned with those types of things, though.
“We’re just taking it game by game,” Frazier said. “We don’t really look at things like that. We’re just trying to focus on the next play, the next team, the next possession. We don’t try to get too far ahead of ourselves, but obviously that’s a great accomplishment.”
Being a senior, Yeguete doesn’t have many games left in the O’Connell Center. Only nine home games remain in a career that began back in 2010. It’s been a good run for Yeguete but he hasn’t thought about the end coming within a couple of months.
“I haven’t thought about it yet,” Yeguete said. “I just, I look at the schedule here today and we have 18 more games, something like that. But you think about it nine more games at home. I don’t think about that yet.”
For Yeguete, he’s hoping the streak keeps going. If the Gators can run the home table, the March 8 senior day festivities will include a celebration for a 35th straight home win — a win that would come four days after UF’s final road game of the season, against those same South Carolina Gamecocks the Gators face Wednesday.