Gators can't solve visiting Gamecocks

Published: Sunday, January 8, 2012 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 9, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.

Jennifer George's eighth straight double-double and a furious second-half Florida rally were not enough to overcome an 18-3 South Carolina run over the last 9:42 of the first half and a couple of clutch offensive rebounds in the closing seconds as the Gamecocks escaped with a 49-44 Southeastern Conference win Sunday.

With the victory before an O'Connell Center crowd of 1,229, the Gamecocks, who are off to their best start since the 2002-03 season, improved to 14-2 overall and 3-0 in the SEC while UF, which has lost its first two SEC home games, slipped to 11-5, 1-2.

“You have to give South Carolina a lot of credit for the way that first half went,” UF head coach Amanda Butler said. “I think in a lot of ways that was not the story of the game but definitely what set the tone. We didn't come out ready to protect our home floor, and in this league it doesn't make any difference who you're playing; you're going to get punched in the mouth if you're not ready to go from the first whistle.”

Both teams struggled early offensively, but after a George layup just past the midway point of the first half pulled UF within 13-12, things went sour for the Gators. Florida's only other points before the break came on a layup from senior guard Deana Allen, who got her first start of the year, with 6:40 left and a free throw from senior guard Jordan Jones with 37.6 seconds remaining.

As a result, Florida headed to intermission down 31-15, with its offensive output the third lowest-scoring first half against an SEC opponent in history.

“We come into basketball games trying to disrupt the flow of an offense, and I thought it was just a matter of time until we disrupted them,” South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said. “Our defense got us some easy buckets.”

UF opened the second half on a 9-0 run, keyed by back-to-back hoops from George, to get within 31-24. The Gamecocks extended the lead to 41-29 with 8:26 left to play, but the Gators again fought back and pulled to within 45-40 on junior forward Lily Svete's three-pointer, UF's only trey in 10 attempts, with 4:55 remaining.

Neither team scored from there until George did off an offensive rebound with 21.8 ticks left to make it 45-42. South Carolina then missed the the front end of two straight subsequent one-and-ones, but both times the Gamecocks grabbed the offensive rebound to maintain possession and eventually sealed the win.

George finished with 16 points and 11 rebounds, both game-high marks, and added a season-high six blocks for UF while Allen just missed a double-double with nine points and 10 boards.

Senior guards La'Keisha Sutton and Markeshia Grant each had 11 points to pace the Gamecocks.

“I was proud of our fight in the second half,” Butler said. “We put ourselves in position but then just didn't do what we needed to do to finish out the game, which again is very disappointing. But then again you have to credit South Carolina for those free throw rebounds meaning more to them than they did to us.”

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