Lee paces Gators over South Carolina

Published: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 10:36 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 7, 2004 at 10:40 p.m.

COLUMBIA, S.C.- David Lee continued his hot shooting and scored 21 points to lead No. 14 Florida to a 65-62 over South Carolina on Wednesday night in the Southeastern Conference opener for both teams.

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Florida's David Lee gets a rebound in the first half as South Carolina's Carlos Powell watches on Wednesday night in Columbia, S.C.

The Associated Press

Lee, who had 14 rebounds, was 8-of-12 from the field, making him 29-of-35 in the past four games for the Gators (10-2). He came up big on a night when Anthony Roberson was held to five points _ nearly 12 below his team-leading average _ on 1-of-5 shooting.

Lee's spinning heave about 4 feet from the basket with 4:50 left broke a 57-all tie and put the Gators ahead for good.

Renaldo Balkman's driving layup with 39 seconds left got South Carolina (13-2) within 63-62.

But Roberson hit two free throws with 18 seconds to go and South Carolina missed two tries at tying the game.

Josh Gonner front-rimmed a fade-away 3-pointer with 8 seconds left and Michael Boynton also missed a 3 and Florida hung on for its fifth straight victory overall and sixth in a row over the Gamecocks.

Gonner led the Gamecocks with 18 points.

Christian Drejer had 16 points and 12 rebounds for Florida.

Roberson only played 4 minutes in the first half after picking up two quick offensive fouls. And the Gators missed him dearly. They shot only 10-of-29 from the field and committed 12 turnovers in the first half as they trailed 29-27.

Roberson's return seemed to settle the Gators, who started the second half with a 20-8 run to go up 47-37 with 12:19 left. But South Carolina, in front of a crowd of 15,042- the third largest at its 15-month-old facility, answered with a 16-5 run. When Gonner drove the left baseline for a layup with 7:35 to go, the Gamecocks led 53-52.

The game was tied at 57 when Lee picked up a missed shot by Drejer and threw up something you might see on a playground. But it went in and the Gators didn't trail again.

South Carolina closed to 61-60 on Gonner's fourth and final 3-pointer. Drejer followed with an inside shot to extend Florida's lead.

Florida led 21-17 when the Gamecocks began attacking on the inside- 16 of their first 24 shots were 3-pointers- and went on a 10-2 run over the next 4 minutes.

Rolando Howell had a basket and two free throws, and Carlos Powell added two inside baskets during the run. Tre Kelley's running shot in the lane gave South Carolina its halftime lead.

The Gamecocks finished 5-of-29 from behind the arc.

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