Three-decked


Published: Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, February 9, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
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Corey Brewer gets jammed up by the University of South Carolina's Brandon Wallace during Wednesday's game at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center.

BRIANA BROUGH/The Gainesville Sun
Sophomore Florida forward Joakim Noah wore an incredulous look, wondering how the game slipped away.
"This game mattered a lot more to us than it did to them," Noah said, moments after Florida's 71-67 loss to South Carolina. "But we didn't play that way."
The loss ended Florida's school-record 20-game home winning streak and dropped No. 7 Florida (20-3, 6-3 SEC) two games behind Tennessee in the SEC East race.
"I'm not even concerned about that right now," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I'm more worried about playing LSU (Saturday at home). Even before this game, Tennessee was in control of its own destiny. "
South Carolina (12-10, 3-6 SEC) beat Florida for the second time in the span of two weeks, sweeping the season series. The Gamecocks came into the game last in the SEC East.
"I don't know how to explain it, particularly in light of the fact that we lost nine straight times to them coming into the season," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said.
But South Carolina point guard Tre Kelley, who led the Gamecocks with 17 points, 7 assists and 3 steals, had an explanation.
"Some people may go out and think, oh this isn't a good team, so they get lackadaisical," Kelley said. "We know we have a good team, though. We have to keep the mindset this is a good team."
Noah led the Gators with 15 points, but Florida was unable to cool South Carolina off from the 3-point line. The Gamecocks made 10 of 21 from beyond the arc for the game, 7 of 16 in the first half. Florida was 6 of 16 from the same distance.
"This game was all about the 3-point line and our inability to guard it," Donovan said.
Still, Florida had a chance to take the game into overtime after Kelley missed the first of two free throws with 19.0 seconds remaining. After a Florida timeout, Kelley made the second free throw to put the Gamecocks ahead 70-67.
But the ensuing Florida play deteriorated. The Gators were supposed to find Lee Humphrey off a screen, but South Carolina had him covered. Point guard Taurean Green dribbled and eventually hoisted an ill-advised three attempt that didn't even reach the rim after it was partially tipped by 6-foot-11 South Carolina forward Brandon Wallace.
Donovan said he thought about rushing for a quick two-pointer and fouling again, but with no timeouts left, opted to hold for a game-tying attempt.
"It wasn't the best shot," Donovan said. "You're not going to always get a great look with the clock winding down. We didn't probably do as good a job finishing the play as I would have liked."
Tampa native Tarence Kinsey added 16 points for South Carolina before fouling out for the first time in his career with 2:11 remaining. Seldom-used junior Bryce Sheldon also played a huge role for the Gamecocks. Sheldon, a junior college transfer, scored 14 points off the bench, including the runner in the lane that put the Gamecocks ahead to stay 64-62 with 1:28 remaining.
Sheldon had appeared in just 7 games in his first year at South Carolina, scoring 13 points.
Noah was stripped by Kelley underneath the basket on the next possession, and Kelley hit two free throws after being fouled to extend the lead to 66-62 with 1:00 left. Noah followed with a dunk to pull Florida within 66-64.
Then, Florida went to the press. South Carolina guard Dwayne Day appeared trapped in the corner, but heaved the ball to an open Renaldo Balkman down the court. Florida forward Al Horford intentionally fouled Balkman as he streaked to the basket. Balkman made 1 of 2 free throws, then Kelley hit two more free throws to put South Carolina ahead 69-64.
Green added 14 points and 3 assists for Florida, but wasn't as sharp as his dominant 29-point, 9-assist effort against Kentucky. Humphrey added 12 points on four 3-pointers. The fourth pulled Florida within 69-67 with 20.4 seconds left.
South Carolina took advantage of the 3-point line in the first half, sinking five during a stretch that turned a 30-23 deficit into a 39-37 halftime lead. Kinsey began the flurry with a three from the right side to pull South Carolina within 28-23. Sheldon followed with his first 3-pointer of the game and Kinsey added another three to put South Carolina up 31-30.
Sheldon sank another 3-pointer and a Kelley three from the top of the circle put South Carolina up 37-32 with 2:01 left in the half. But a Green 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds remaining pulled Florida within 39-37 at halftime.
"We got a little lackadaisical with our 3-point defense in transition," Green said. "We gave them too many open looks."
You can reach Kevin Brockway by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at brockwk@gvillesun.com.

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