Published: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 2:41 p.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 26, 2006 at 2:41 p.m.
(AP) - Before the season, Florida was nowhere to be seen on any list of the country's top teams.
The Gators, who lost their top three scorers from last season, didn't crack lists of the top teams in the Southeastern Conference, either.
That all changed with a school-record 17-0 start that saw Florida rise to No. 2 in The Associated Press' poll. Things are about to change again after consecutive road losses to Tennessee and South Carolina, the latter a 68-62 defeat on Wednesday night.
"We're right back to where we were before the season started," Gators coach Billy Donovan said. "We've got to be able to prove ourselves. I think it's very, very evident, we're not a Top 5, Top Ten, Top 15 team."
While Donovan thought the Gators (17-2, 3-2) fought hard in their 80-76 loss at Tennessee last weekend, he didn't see the same intensity from his team against the Gamecocks (11-8, 2-4).
South Carolina had the edge in every category over Florida. The Gamecocks had more rebounds (32-31), fewer turnovers (8-17) and doubled the Gators' five steals.
"What this goes to show you is that in our league, coming in with a team that was 1-4 against a team that was perceived as being a top team, we were basically manhandled today," Donovan said.
In other games involving ranked teams, it was: No. 1 Connecticut 66, St. John's 50; No. 8 Illinois 77, Minnesota 53; Marshall 58, No. 9 West Virginia 52; Michigan 72, No. 11 Michigan State 67; No. 14 George Washington 94, Duquesne 78; Seton Hall 83, No. 15 North Carolina State 65; No. 18 Maryland 86, Georgia Tech 74; No. 19 Tennessee 88, Mississippi State 65; No. 20 Boston College 84, North Carolina 74; No. 22 Louisville 67, Cincinnati 50; No. 23 Wisconsin 72, Penn State 43; and No. 24 Oklahoma 82, Baylor 52.
Tarence Kinsey had 19 points for South Carolina, which snapped a nine-game losing streak against the Gators dating to 2001. Florida took a 15-6 lead, but the Gamecocks went on a 20-6 run to take control, leading by as many as 13 in the second half.
"Some might say there was a team in the country that needed a win like this more than we did," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "I would argue that."
Taurean Green led the Gators with 17 points, while Joakim Noah had 12, only four in the second half.
Green had two 3-pointers, Walter Hodge added one and Al Horford scored inside as Florida cut a 15-point lead to 67-62 with 38 seconds to go. South Carolina held on despite going 4-of-8 from the free-throw line down the stretch.
Gamecocks guard Tre Kelley said the key was staying patient and in control when Florida took the early lead.
"That's what we did, we stayed calm," he said. "We knew we had to create intensity if we wanted to turn this around."
No. 1 Connecticut 66, St. John's 50
Rudy Gay had 20 points, eight rebounds, five blocked shots and two steals for the Huskies (17-1, 5-1 Big East) in their first game since moving to No. 1.
Eugene Lawrence had 17 points for the Red Storm (10-7, 3-3), who were coming off wins over Louisville and Pittsburgh and gave UConn all it could handle for all but the final 9 minutes.
No. 8 Illinois 77, Minnesota 53
Dee Brown scored 17 points and freshman Jamar Smith had 16 as the Illini (18-2, 4-2 Big Ten) extended their home winning streak to a school-record 32 games.
Maurice Hargrow and Vincent Grier each had 14 points for the Golden Gophers (9-8, 0-6), who lost their 14th straight to Illinois.
Marshall 58, No. 9 West Virginia 52
Mark Patton had 16 points and 10 rebounds for the Thundering Herd (8-9), who beat their instate rival for the second straight year and ended the nation's longest winning streak at 12 games. West Virginia went on a 7-0 run to tie the game at 48 with 2:08 remaining, but Patton put Marshall ahead to stay with a short jumper with 1:32 left.
Kevin Pittsnogle had 20 points for the Mountaineers (14-4), who were held to a season low for points in the game played at the Charleston Civic Center.
Michigan 72, No. 11 Michigan St. 67
Daniel Horton scored 23 points and the Wolverines (14-3, 4-2 Big Ten) won their third straight and beat their rival for the second time in 14 meetings.
Maurice Ager had 18 points for the Spartans (15-5, 3-3), who pulled within two late but failed to score on three possessions.
No. 14 George Washington 94, Duquesne 78
Pops Mensah-Bonsu scored a career-high 29 points for the Colonials (15-1, 5-0 Atlantic 10), who shook off a sluggish first 30 minutes for the road win.
Bryant McAllister had 23 points for the Dukes (2-15, 0-6), who dropped their ninth straight and lost to George Washington for the 21st time in their last 24 meetings. Duquesne has lost 18 consecutive games against ranked teams dating to a 78-70 win over Xavier on Jan. 25, 1997.
Seton Hall 83, No. 15 N.C. State 65
Donald Copeland had 22 points and Kelly Whitney added 17 for the Pirates (11-6), who opened the second half with a 14-3 run to take a 54-30 lead.
Tony Bethel had 15 points for the Wolfpack (15-4), who lost at home for the first time this season.
No. 18 Maryland 86, Georgia Tech 74
Nik Caner-Medley scored a career-high 33 points for the Terrapins (14-4, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), who played their first game since leading scorer Chris McCray was declared academically ineligible for the rest of the season. The win was the 348th at Maryland for Gary Williams, tying him with Lefty Driesell as the winningest coach in school history.
Anthony Morrow and Ra'Sean Dickey each scored 18 points for the Yellow Jackets (9-8, 2-4), who have lost four straight for the first time since a five-game skid in 2002-03.
No. 19 Tennessee 88, Mississippi St. 65
C.J. Watson scored 19 points and Andre Patterson added 13 points and 11 rebounds for the Volunteers (13-3, 4-1 Southeastern Conference), who avoided their second letdown after beating a Top Ten team this season. Last month, Tennessee followed a victory over then-No. 6 Texas with a loss to Oklahoma State. This time, the Volunteers were much more poised after their win over Florida last weekend.
Jamont Gordon, Charles Rhodes and Jamall Edmondson each had 15 points for Mississippi State (11-8, 1-5), which has lost five straight for the first time since 1999-2000.
No. 20 Boston College 81, North Carolina 74
Jared Dudley had 17 points and Craig Smith scored 14 of his 16 in the second half as the Eagles (15-4, 3-3 Atlantic Coast Conference) gave coach Al Skinner his 300th career victory.
Freshman Tyler Hansbrough had a career-high 26 points for the Tar Heels (11-5, 3-3), who cut a 12-point halftime deficit to two late in the game but couldn't complete the comeback.
No. 22 Louisville 67, Cincinnati 50
Taquan Dean, who missed all but 12 minutes of Louisville's last five games with a sprained ankle, scored 16 points as the Cardinals (14-5, 2-4 Big East) snapped a three-game losing streak.
Eric Hicks had 15 points and tied a career high with 17 rebounds for the Bearcats (14-6, 3-3), who turned the ball over 25 times, leading to 36 Louisville points.
No. 23 Wisconsin 72, Penn St. 43
Alando Tucker scored 17 points for the Badgers (15-4, 5-1 Big Ten), who snapped a two-game losing streak by going 13-for-34 from 3-point range.
Geary Claxton had 17 points for the Nittany Lions (10-7, 2-4).
No. 24 Oklahoma 82, Baylor 52
Taj Gray and Terrell Everett each had 16 points for the Sooners (12-4, 3-2 Big 12), who beat Baylor for the 23rd straight time, a streak that dates to December 1977.
Patrick Fields had 14 points for the Bears (0-5, 0-5), who have lost 19 straight.
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