No. 20 Florida shot down by hot South Carolina

Florida guard Egor Koulechov tries to drive past South Carolina defender Evan Hinson on his way to the basket Wednesday the O'Connell Center. [Brad McClenny/The Gainesville Sun]

Florida players blamed it on a lack of focus, both in practices and on the scouting report.

The No. 20 Gators, perhaps giddy following their big win over Kentucky over the weekend at Rupp Arena, simply failed to show the same defensive fire or attention to detail in a 77-72 loss Wednesday to South Carolina before 10,550 at the O’Connell Center.

Florida (14-6, 6-2 SEC) allowed South Carolina to shoot 50 percent from the floor in the second half and 52.6 from 3-point range for the game (11-21). The Gamecocks, who entered the game ranked ninth in the SEC in 3-point field goal shooting at 32.7 percent, surprised Florida with their perimeter shooting.

“They beat us in a different way than I think any of us would have predicted,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators were unable to make big plays and big shots down the stretch. The biggest came with 2:02 remaining, when junior forward Egor Koulechov came up with a steal with Florida down 71-68, only to turn the ball back over as he was falling out of bounds. Florida was forced to dig in for another defensive possession, but South Carolina junior forward Chris Silva hit a big fall-away jumper to put the Gamecocks (13-7, 4-4 SEC) up 73-68 with 1:39 left.

Koulechov blamed himself for the play, while White said a couple of teammates should have tried to come back from midcourt to meet him for a pass to try to bail him out.

“I saw a couple of white jerseys in the air, but I should have called timeout since I had possession of the ball,” Koulechov said. “I didn’t think quick enough on my feet and that’s on me.”

Another questionable coaching decision came when, with 46.3 seconds left and Florida down 73-70, White chose to have freshman guard Mike Okauru foul South Carolina’s Frank Booker with 39 seconds left rather than play out the defensive possession. Booker made both free throws to put South Carolina up 75-70. But given how poorly Florida defended down the stretch, it may not have mattered.

Offensively, Florida endured another up-and-down game, shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 26.1 percent (6-23) from 3-point range. Koulechov and Jalen Hudson led four UF scorers in double figures with 16 points each. Junior guard KeVaughn Allen added 15 points on 15 shot attempts and had four turnovers, while senior point guard Chris Chiozza had 10 points and eight assists.

The Gators led 21-10 early on a Hudson 3-pointer, but with Chiozza in foul trouble, allowed South Carolina to shoot its way back into the game. Graduate transfer Wesley Myers went 3-for-3 from 3-point range in the first half, scoring 12 of his season-high 22 points in the first 20 minutes to put South Carolina up 39-37 at halftime. Overall, South Carolina went 7 of 13 from 3-point range in the first half.

“It was our attention to detail and focus early in the game that hurt us,” Hudson said. “From the beginning, South Carolina played harder than us and wanted it more than us. They got some open looks from 3 that got their guards going.”

The Gators came out with energy during an 11-0 run to start the second half. Allen got Florida going with a four-point play, which put Florida back up 41-39. Chiozza scored four straight points on a pair of free throws and a jumper, then Allen hit another 3-pointer to extend UF’s lead to 48-39 with 18:15 left.

But Myers gave South Carolina life with a deep 3-pointer late in the shot clock with 16:11 left to cut UF’s lead to 48-42. Then, the Gamecocks started going inside to Silva and Maik Kotsar. Silva finished with 18 points and 12 rebounds for his fifth double-double of the season.

“We doubled him every time he touched the ball in the post and he still got 18 and 12,” White said.

South Carolina regained the lead for good, 62-60, on a three-point play by Silva with 7:33 left. After an Allen turnover, Booker then made a 3-pointer with 6:53 remaining to put the Gamecocks up 65-60.

“The first five minutes of the second half defensively we were really good and those were the only five minutes of the game we were really good,” White said. “We had spurts in other parts of the game where we were decent against a team has struggled a little bit offensively in South Carolina with new guards and a couple of guys banged up. They had their way with us.”

South Carolina coach Frank Martin said the ability to make perimeter shots early opened things up for Silva and Kotsar inside in the second half.

“I said before the season that this was one of the best shooting teams, if not the best shooting team that I’ve coached,” Martin said. “The problem is that when you play in the SEC, the other teams do not cooperate while allowing you to shoot. Because guys were making shots, it made it hard to double Chris.”

Etc: White dropped to 1-4 in five games against South Carolina and 11-14 in games decided by 5 points or less during his UF tenure. … Florida also dropped to 8-3 at home this season and will next play Baylor at the O’Connell Center (noon tip, ESPN) in the SEC-Big 12 Challenge.



Kotsar 3-6 2-2 9, Silva 5-9 8-9 18, Minaya 2-5 0-0 6, Myers 8-15 1-2 22, Hinson 3-6 0-0 8, Haase 1-4 3-4 5, Cudd 0-0 0-0 0, Gueye 0-0 0-0 0, Booker 1-3 4-4 7, Corchiani 0-0 0-0 0, Gravett 1-4 0-1 2, Beatty 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 24-55 18-22 77.

FLORIDA (14-6)

Stone 1-3 0-2 2, Hayes 2-5 0-0 4, Koulechov 6-11 3-3 16, Allen 5-15 2-3 15, Chiozza 2-7 6-6 10, Bassett 2-2 5-7 9, Gak 0-1 0-0 0, Ballard 0-0 0-0 0, Okauru 0-0 0-0 0, Hudson 6-12 2-2 16. Totals 24-56 18-23 72.

Halftime_South Carolina 39-37. 3-Point Goals_South Carolina 11-21 (Myers 5-7, Minaya 2-3, Hinson 2-4, Kotsar 1-1, Booker 1-2, Gravett 0-1, Beatty 0-1, Haase 0-2), Florida 6-23 (Allen 3-9, Hudson 2-6, Koulechov 1-4, Stone 0-2, Chiozza 0-2). Fouled Out_None. Rebounds_South Carolina 29 (Silva 12), Florida 27 (Koulechov 8). Assists_South Carolina 14 (Kotsar, Myers 4), Florida 10 (Chiozza 8). Total Fouls_South Carolina 19, Florida 17.


    • Yep, a 10.5 point favorite at home loses by 5. Not much of a surprise though, this team continues to live and die by the 3 point shot, they force way too many poor shots. This team once again cannot stretch an 11 point lead into a 20 point lead. I have the Gators as an 8 seed come March, they could easily lose their first game, or, depending who in their bracket gets upset, make it to the Final Four, but an early exit is probably more in order. Frank Martin and SC have their number, 6-7 more losses is more of a probability than a possibility.

  1. Bigs inside gave little effort and toughness, too many turnovers by Chiozza, Allen, and Egor. And, with a chance to tie late, Egor drops an easy rebound stumbling out of bounds or knocks it back in. If he grabs the ball, we have a chance to tie with a 3.
    Poor coaching again. He continues to get outcoached by Martin and others. And, evidently no assistant or he can coach the inside guys. This team had a chance to go up on UK and Bama by 2, and Auburn if they lose, by one. They did not come to play.
    Lone bright spots were Hudson who is the best player on the team by far, and Bassett who scoreda career high 9, more than he had previously scored all season.

    • VERY inconsistent team, you never know who or what is going to show up. The only consistent player is Hudson, he plays both ends of the court and is basketball smart. Chiozzo is normally consistent but he was NOT too good last night. They have not been a very good TEAM since they lost that game against Duke, when I know each of them know they played poorly in the late 4th quarter. They seem to be mentally shot, don’t think they have what it tales. They have some very good talent, just not performing, not alert and seems to not know what they should be doing at times. Sorry I didn’t watch the whole game, play was too poor. SORRY!

  2. White has a problem that isn’t going to fixed this season. Gators have no leader and virtually no mental toughness. This is the third atrocious loss at home and it clearly indicates they are unquestionably overrated. If they are lucky, if they are lucky, they will win one in the Dance — they will not be in the Sweet 16. Oh, and by the way, did the Gators get outcoached tonight or did they get outcoached? Don’t be shocked if Baylor comes in Saturday and beats these sissies.

  3. Pathetic. We are so soft inside that we had to focus on Silva who ate us alive (as has all of the big men we faced this season). That left the perimeter open for them to land 3’s all night. We gave up 77 points, no defense. The funny thing is that just last night I watched a game from 2001 on ESPN Classic with 6 ft 8 inch Udonis Haslem dominating the boards. He wasn’t the tallest out there but was by far the toughest. We do not have that in any of our bigs. And speaking of big men where was Stone in the second half? There was somebody out there wearing his jersey, but I guess that wasn’t him.

  4. Didn’t watch this game, only followed online. Once again teams shoot lights out from the three. Not sure why we can’t defend from beyond? Oh I know why because we don’t know how to! Every time I think we have turned the corner we lay an egg. We have such a slim margin for error and it showed tonight. Glad I didn’t watch.

  5. Who knows, maybe we’ll get lucky and somehow, some way White will leave at season’s end. I’m thinking his real age is 26. As the game was ending, I was thinking that the only ones that could have saved us tonight were Kasey Hill and Chris Walker.

    • bf, (probably for butt f…), your ”Chris Walker” line gave your true identity away (poser!), any real Gator B-ball fan knows that Chris Walker was softer than cream whip. So, like David said, ”exit stage left!”

      • And although you, ”but f…” don’t even deserve the 2nd tapping of my fingers on a computer, Kasey Hill could’ve helped U.F. last night, as he had ”182 steals in 137 games and 93 starts. Named second-team All-SEC and SEC All-Defensive Team by the coaches as a senior.” -Official Gator Men’s Basketball site.
        And b.t.w., come back here and let us know when F.S.who, U.G.A., or even the mighty Tide ”win it all” in football and basketball in the same year, like FLORIDA did in 2006. I keep bringing it up… ’cause I CAN! And ~ONLY~ Gator fans can, in all of NCAA HISTORY!

  6. Pa Thetic! As I have been saying, it is up to the “bigs” and they stayed home tonight. Stone, Hayes, I am talking about you. You girls totally whiffed tonight. Hey, clue in, flopping ain’t gonna win a game. Neither one of you fouled out so grow a pair and knock the shitte out of the other bigs on the floor. We lost because of you! Damn Nancy’s.

    • Maybe as salty and gritty as U.S.C. played, but I agree David. All three scoring guards (while their ‘D’ was weak) Allen, Hudon, and Koulechov all scored in double digits. All the while, the ”bigs” could NOT hit a shot UNDERNEATH THE BASKET TO SAVE THEIR LIVES! It boggles the mind, how does a ”big man” at the Univ. of Florida, playing for the MEN’S BASKETBALL TEAM, choke UNDERNEATH THE BASKET as much as they do?

  7. It’s so amazing how it’s wonderful and gutsy and gritty, etc. whenever they pull off a big road win, but lose at home to, yes, a team they probably could’ve and should’ve beaten, and there’s no leadership (then you haven’t been watching Chiozza this year), or too many turnovers by Chiozza (gatorlover1996, he had 8 asst. and ONE turnover, check the stats before to call out someone). Couldn’t watch the game, but listened to it, and heard them talk about the uncontested 3s and whoever was supposed to be guarding Myers wasn’t keeping up with him. In the end, it just wasn’t a good 40 minutes of defensive effort by the entire team, and right now with our lack of depth (Gak has been out of action for over two weeks, so you can’t tell me he’s in game shape) up front, they’ve had to do a lot of help defense on the inside, which leads to open 3-point shooters, who if they are shooting well that game will burn the Gator defense. (sorry for the Dickens-style sentence) If that happens, and the 3s aren’t falling on the Gator offensive end, then it becomes a grind that might not go their way. I still expect many more wins.

    • Excellent comment Corey, from someone with a little perspective. As you say, it boggles the mind how a close win means the team is gritty, but a close loss means there was no effort and no heart. Good job to point out Chiozza’s stats, and I would add, for RSGATOR complaining about rebounding, that the battle of the boards was virtually even. Also, on the Koulechov rebound RSGATOR mentioned, as he was falling, there were two Gator players surrounding him and falling out of bounds as well, so there was nobody available for him to pass the ball back to. Probably should’ve just went ahead and stepped out with it, but it was going to be a turnover regardless.

      Nobody would’ve expected SC to beat the Gators with its 3-point shooting, so if UF had played the perimeter close and Silva went off for 30, some fans would be calling Mike White an idiot for not focusing on defending Silva in the paint. It’s a disappointing loss, yes, but nobody’s going undefeated in the SEC. There have only been two 18-0 regular seasons in SEC history: UF in 2013-14 and KY in 2014-15. This Gator team will lose again, and it won’t mean they’re no good. It happens. I expect many more wins as well.

    • He’s about as good as Florida can expect to hire, even with back-to-back championships, Gator basketball is not an elite program like KY, Duke, NC, Kansas and never will be. The O dome is a nice facility, but it doesn’t compare to a facility like Rupp Arena, the KFC Yum Center in Louisville or the Dean Dome, and facilities matter to a young recruit. UF will never be able to land a player like Marvin Bagley III of Duke, they’ll have to continue settling to develop players like K. Hayes and hope for the occasional grad transfer.

  8. Come now we lost more due to a poor shooting night than anything else. Sure SC played better than expected but making some more shots and being able to defeat zone defense caused this loss. Same types of issues that our previous coach had.

  9. For all you Mikey (Elmer Fudd) White lovers:
    Gators were favored by 9 over FSU; favored by 16.5 vs Loyola (Chi); and, 10.5 over S. Carolina. White lost all three of these in Gainesville outright and, in 2 of the three, he was thumped.
    No other coach in Div. 1 that’s with a “name” school has lost more than one of these types of home games with similar spreads! The overwhelming percentage has lost none! And White can even muddy the waters a little more with the games remaining. The country is whacked right now so here is what could happen: Coach K unexpectedly decides to retire at season’s end and the Duke AD hires his 27-yr-old son, Mike White, to replace the legend.