Early in the game it looked like neither team was going to be able to get over 30 points and though the Gators defense made it look like the Gamecocks might be kept to that mark their offense was able to get into rhythm and it resulted in Florida beating South Carolina 65-41. Playing some of their best defense of the season the Gators limited the Gamecocks to only 27% shooting from the field and a mere 2-13 from the 3-point line, a major departure from their last meeting when South Carolina went 11-21 from the land beyond. Chris Chiozza was a leader once again for the Gators recording 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists while making sure Florida got into offensive sets and got good shots. 65 points might not look like a lot for the Gators but they shot a respectable 46% from the field and did it against one of the best defensive teams in the country. Having won two games in the row the Gators will look to keep it rolling through the end of the SEC season.
Whenever two teams play each other for the second time in a season you really get to see which coaches and teams can make the best adjustments. We saw this from the opening tip when both teams used different starting lineups then we saw in the first matchup. Jalen Hudson started for the Gators in place of KeVaughn Allen (a lineup we saw against LSU that ended up working nicely) and for the Gamecocks Hassani Gravett got only his second start of the season. In terms of strategy Mike White made some really strong offensive changes to help Florida’s attack. Knowing South Carolina wants to pressure players without the ball to make it tough for them to get open for passes the Gators brought players a lot higher, usually above the free throw line, and set multiple screens to get players open for threes or for screeners to slip towards the hoop (something we saw lead to two uncontested Egor Koulechov layups). I think the coaching staff deserves a lot of credit for today’s effort from the Gators as they made adjustments a lot better then South Carolina did.
One of the more interesting storylines of today’s game was the fact the Gators pounded the Gamecocks on the glass 50-29. South Carolina is a big, physical team that prides itself on being one of the best glass eating teams in the nation and Florida floats around an average rebounding squad so the fact the Gators dominated this category was unexpected and a big reason they were able to blow this game out. We knew Florida was going to need to match South Carolina’s intensity to win this one and their effort on the glass showed that they did more then match it.
Protecting the rim at all costs the Gators swatted away 10 shots today, erasing points that seemed like sure things and intimidating players from wanting to drive the next time down the floor. Florida isn’t particularly long or bulky but they have some athletes who can anticipate when an opponent is about to shoot and I hope they can continue to block a lot of shots because every block is potentially easy points off the board for the other team.
The Gators were able to get a lot of minutes for their bench today and that should really help with their development and help by giving the starters a much needed blow. Dontay Bassett (16 minutes), Michael Okauru (15 minutes), Deaundrae Ballard (13 minutes), and Gorjok Gak (12 minutes) partially got so much run because of the margin near the end of the game but they were all able to give some production when the game was still close which was great to see.
What’s Up Next
The Gators got their revenge against South Carolina and now they’ll look to get it against Georgia on Valentines Day. The Gators fell to the Bulldogs on January 30th by the score of 72-60 in Athens and would love to get a win back from them in Gainesville. Standings in the SEC remain extremely close and closing out wins at home will keep the Gators near the top until they can play Auburn and Tennessee head to head to really make up ground.
What did you think of the game today? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.