Gators beat Gamecocks for first road victory
Published: Saturday, January 14, 2012 at 9:04 p.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, January 15, 2012 at 12:16 a.m.
COLUMBIA, S.C. — There was no late meltdown. Few dips in defensive intensity. And even fewer careless turnovers.
1. Can Florida come out with better energy on the road after a lethargic performance at Tennessee?
Despite allowing South Carolina to shoot 62.5 percent from the field in the first half, Florida coach Billy Donovan said he felt the Gators were engaged and came out with good energy. Florida executed better defensively in the second half and continued to play on edge on both ends of the floor. That resulted in UF's first road win of the season.
2. Can the Gators keep South Carolina sophomore point guard Bruce Ellington in check?
Ellington made his first start of the season and finished with 17 points. But Ellington also picked up two first-half fouls. Erving Walker guarded Ellington for most of the game and held Ellington to 6-of-14 shooting. Walker also finished with more assists (7) than Ellington (3)
3. Can Florida knock down more shots from the perimeter after averaging 7 3-pointers a game in its first two SEC games?
Florida started hot from the perimeter, making 5 of its first 7 3-point attempts. Overall, the Gators shot 50 percent from 3-point range on 12-of-24 shooting. With the 12 3-pointers, Florida increased its nation-leading 3-point total to 195 on the season.
Slowly and methodically, No. 19 Florida pulled away for its first road win of the season. With six scorers reaching double figures, the Gators beat South Carolina 79-65 before 11,308 at Colonial Life Arena.
Florida (14-4, 2-1 SEC) overcame its share of adversity to improve to 1-4 on the road this season. Starting center Patric Young was replaced by Will Yeguete in the starting lineup due to ankle tendinitis that had been bothering Young the past two weeks. Yeguete responded with a career-high 14 points, while Young had 4 points and 4 fouls in 13 minutes off the bench.
Junior guard Kenny Boynton led the Gators with 15 points, going 4 of 7 from 3-point range.
“We're tired of hearing 0-4 on the road,” Boynton said. “We feel like it's a new season, the SEC season. Now we're 1-1 on the road. We've just got to keep it going.”
Freshman Bradley Beal added 14 points. Erving Walker and Erik Murphy had 11 points apiece, while Mike Rosario chipped in with 10 points in 19 minutes off the bench.
Florida played a selfless game, finishing with 19 assists on 24 baskets. Walker had 7 assists, his most since a 7-assist performance Dec. 22 against Florida State. Overall, the Gators finished with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 19 to 10 and shot 50 percent (12 of 24) from 3-point range.
Still, the Gators trailed 41-40 at halftime because South Carolina shot 62.5 percent in the first half. But the Gators stiffened on defense in the second half, limiting the Gamecocks to just 25 points on 25.8 percent shooting. Florida went on a 14-0 run early in the second half, extending a 45-44 lead to 59-44.
“We made a few adjustments in the half just in terms of pressuring up (on their shooters) a little bit,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said.
South Carolina (8-9, 0-3 SEC) went 6 for 11 from 3-point range in the first half, hitting some ridiculously deep shots. Sophomore guard Bruce Ellington, making his first start of the season, made a pair of deep 3-pointers. Ellington scored 9 of his team-high 17 points in the first half.
But Florida responded by going 8 of 14 from the same distance in the first half, including a deep 3-pointer from Boynton with 3.4 seconds left to cut South Carolina's lead to 41-40 at halftime.
“I thought our focus level was there defensively,” Donovan said. “We just probably didn't have the results on the stat sheet that we would have liked in the first half and it was better in the second half.”
Yeguete, who found out he was starting during UF's pregame shoot-around, made the most of his opportunity. The 6-foot-7 sophomore, who started five games for Murphy earlier this season, added 8 rebounds, 2 assists and a blocked shot.
“Pat is a pretty big part of this team and our whole team had to step up,” Yeguete said. “It wasn't only me.”
Said Donovan: “I was really happy with the way Will responded … he made some great plays. He rebounded the ball for us, defended the very well. We really needed him.”
Florida also got another big effort off the bench from Rosario, who came up with his biggest play on a steal and breakaway dunk, extending UF's lead to 52-44 with 12:48 remaining.
“I feel a lot more comfortable,” Rosario said. “When I come off the bench and I bring that spark to our team, it feeds off positive energy to everyone. And I just put my focus to that.”
Donovan said that Rosario has earned more minutes off the bench.
“He's put in some good practices and he's been really, really consistent,” Donovan said. “We've tried to utilize him. Certainly offensively, he's a weapon because he can shoot the basketball.”
Florida gets a bye this week before returning home for its next game Saturday against LSU. While Donovan was pleased with the effort, he didn't view the first road win of the season as a significant step.
“It was a good step for us,” Donovan said. “But I still feel like we need to get better and we need to improve going forward.”
FREE THROWS: Donovan said that Young's ankle will be re-evaluated on Monday and that he would consider sitting him out a few practices during the bye week to get him closer to 100 percent. “This would be the week to do that,” Donovan said. … South Carolina honored its football team at halftime for its Capital One Bowl win vs. Nebraska. South Carolina (and former Florida) coach Steve Spurrier walked with a cane as he addressed the crowd, the result of being eight days removed from knee replacement surgery. … South Carolina out-rebounded Florida 30-25, but the Gators nearly had as many second-chance points (14) as the Gamecocks (16). Florida also scored 22 points off 12 South Carolina turnovers.
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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