New house filled to capacity


Published: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 19, 2003 at 2:49 a.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C. - South Carolina opened its new arena on Nov. 24, but it took the arrival of No. 6 Florida to show it at its capacity.

Through South Carolina's first eight home games, the average attendance was 12,449, more than 5,000 below the 17,600 capacity. The biggest crowd was 14,922 which happened on the night the Carolina Center was opened against East Tennessee State.

Saturday night, it was sold out (17, 038).

It was the second time in as many SEC road games this season that Florida's arrival has produced a school's first sellout of the season. In the conference opener at Mississippi State, 10,541 filled Humphrey Coliseum in Starkville, more than 6,000 than what the Bulldogs had been averaging.

While the Gamecocks had gone 7-1 in their first eight games at the Carolina Center, the Gators may have been the first "quality opponent" South Carolina fans could see. The only other decent teams the Gamecocks have hosted have been Auburn, Temple and Ole Miss.

  • MISSING IN THE MIDDLE: Florida has already shown this season it was capable of containing some of the best centers in the country. The Gators were able to get wins over Kansas and Mississippi State despite giving up a huge size differential to KU's Nick Collison and MSU's Mario Austin.

    Saturday night, South Carolina center Tony Kitchings looked better than any of them.

    Kitchings had missed several games this season with a broken hand, but nothing appeared to be bothering him against the Gators.

    Kitchings scored the first eight points of the game for the Gamecocks and made 9 of his first 12 shots. Entering the game, Kitchings' season high had been 11, Saturday night he had 19 points and eight rebounds at halftime. But he was shut down in the second half, scoring just three points.

  • DREJER FROM DEEP: Florida freshman Christian Drejer hit the first 3-pointer of his collegiate career with 11:23 left in the first half. Drejer scored four points in his debut Wednesday night against Tennessee, but did not attempt any 3s.

  • TIP-INS: South Carolina football coach Lou Holtz was in attendance at Saturday night's game. ... "Beat Florida" shirts were handed out for free to students who attended Saturday night's game. ... This is the third time in four SEC games this season that Florida trailed at halftime. ... This is the second time this season the Gators have played in a new arena. Florida beat Maryland 69-64 on Dec. 14 at the Comcast Center. ... Florida has won eight of its last nine against South Carolina and matched last year's 15-2 mark as the best start in school history. ... Florida won its league-best 17th SEC road game over the last two years. ... South Carolina lost its third straight.

    You can reach Dylan B. Tomlinson by calling 374-5054 or by e-mail at tomlind@gvillesun.com.

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