Road woes

Florida's Lee Humphery, top, and Corey Brewer try to take the ball away from South Carolina's Dwayne Day as he falls to the floor during the first half of the No. 5 Gators' 68-62 loss Wednesday night at the Colonial Center.

The Associated Press
Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 12:00 a.m.
Five days ago Florida was considered for the top spot in the nation. Today, the Gators find themselves tied for second in the Southeastern Conference's East division.
In an example of how quickly things can change in college basketball, No. 5 Florida (17-2, 3-2 SEC) struggled mightily in a 68-62 loss at South Carolina. Unlike the Tennessee loss that dropped Florida from the unbeaten ranks last Saturday, Florida played Wednesday night with surprisingly little energy or focus.
Players admitted as much afterward. "We've just got to start playing basketball the way we know how to play," said sophomore forward Corey Brewer. "We're playing too pretty right now. We've got to get back to being gritty.
"We're not hitting people in the mouth. We're letting other people hit us in the mouth."
Florida put together a flurry of four straight 3-pointers late - three by Taurean Green and one by Walter Hodge - that pulled the Gators within 65-60 with 48.5 seconds left. But South Carolina guard Tarence Kinsey hit two free throws late and made a game-clinching steal against Green as the clock wound down.
About the only drama that remained late was whether students would storm the court. A few tried, but a security presence, that included erecting a rope around the perimeter of the court, kept fans at bay.
Though Florida was only out-rebounded 32-31, South Carolina grabbed 14 offensive rebounds. Turnovers were another problem. Florida committed 17, including 10 in the first half.
Florida, hailed as one of the best pass-and-catch teams by South Carolina coach Dave Odom before the game, had trouble with the catch part in trying to get the ball inside.
"The level of focus they needed to have wasn't there," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "I have to take responsibility for it, and we all have to take responsibility for it."
Joakim Noah finished with his first career double-double at Florida, with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Green led Florida in scoring with 17 points and Hodge added 10 points off the bench.
"I could see it before the game, in the hotel, while we traveled," Noah said. "We didn't come out with that edge. We have to find that edge and get it back."
Brewer started, but clearly wasn't himself. Brewer, who suffered a lateral right ankle sprain that he played through against Tennessee, finished with 7 points and two assists and was missing the lift that's vital to his game.
An example of Brewer's inability to get off the floor came after a steal. He drove in for a break-away layup but couldn't convert. Brewer was bailed out by a phantom foul call against South Carolina guard Tre Kelley.
With Brewer hobbled, Florida attempted to establish an inside presence early. Florida actually jumped to an early 13-4 lead but couldn't sustain it. Renaldo Balkman gave South Carolina a lift, scoring three baskets during an 8-0 run. The last, a layup around Florida forward Chris Richard, gave the Gamecocks their first lead, 16-15.
South Carolina didn't trail the rest of the way, leading 29-23 at halftime and by as many as 15 in the second half until a late Florida charge.
Kinsey, a Tampa native, led South Carolina with 19 points. Balkman scored 14 off the bench to help South Carolina (11-8, 2-4) snap a nine-game losing streak against Florida.
"I'm sure there'll be some type of argument from somebody, but I can't think of a team that needed a win more than ours did anywhere in the country," Odom said.
Tennessee jumped ahead of Florida in the SEC East with a win Wednesday night at Mississippi State. Florida is tied for second with Kentucky and Vanderbilt.
"We've been playing soft," Noah said. "We've been listening to all the hype. We've got to get back to playing the kind of basketball we were when we started the season."

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