In the hallway near their Exactech Arena locker room, Chris Silva and Wesley Myers — the South Carolina heroes of the night — were studying box scores with big grins.
As Gamecocks coach Frank Martin walked by, Silva with a long finger pointed out to his coach the stat that mattered most to him.
“Twelve rebounds,” he said. “That’s something I’m proud of.”
About 20 minutes later, Mike White glanced at a crumpled box score of his own. He didn’t need to study anything to know what went wrong for the Gators on Wednesday night.
“Our margin of error is not that big,” he said.
Welcome to the new look SEC, where you had better pack a lunch every time you pull on your game jersey.
Because Florida did not, the Gators went from the ecstasy of a big win four days prior to the deflation of a home loss to a team that was under .500 in the league.
On Saturday night, White was firing up a bus of happy Gators as the team pulled away from Rupp Arena. On Wednesday night, he was wondering where those guys went.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said.
In a way, though, it does.
Florida has two major weaknesses on defense — the lack of size inside and the inability to cover 3-point shooters.
Bang went Silva inside. Swish went Myers from outside.
The two players combined for 40 points, the only Gamecocks in double figures. It was enough because Martin played nine guys for at least 11 minutes each and the other seven combined for 37 points.
Silva, they knew all about. They even knew that Maik Kotsar seems to take his game to a different level against UF as anyone who watched last year’s Elite Eight game knows.
But South Carolina’s ability to make 3s gave the Gamecocks a halftime lead and allowed them to rally after an 11-0 UF run to start the second half.
“We let them get comfortable,” said UF’s Egor Koulechov. “First half, they make seven or eight threes. When we do that on the road, we feel pretty good.”
But this was hardly an aberration. Florida came into the game last in the SEC in defending the 3. It certainly didn’t improve its standing with South Carolina going 11-of-21 beyond the arc.
“I don’t know what it is with our late clock 3-point defense,” White said. “It’s gotta be 80 percent.”
White was quick to point out how well South Carolina played. They came in needing a resume win and left with a big RPI boost. And that’s the thing. This Florida team, as scrappy and tough as it has shown at times, has to grasp that it needs to be that way at all times.
It’s not good enough to coast. Especially on defense. Especially against a team that is going to play hard for every second it can breathe.
“Every mistake we made, they made us pay for,” White said.
They did and a lot didn’t go right for UF. Perhaps the game could best be summed up by one play with two minutes to go. Koulechov made a steal stumbling near the baseline and — as he was falling out of bounds — turned to find someone to throw the ball to.
Except there was nobody there, except Myers.
“We’re running down the court like it’s noon ball,” White said of the pickup games with coaches and managers. “We gotta get the damn ball in first.”
Seconds later, Silva hit a jumper for a five-point lead.
And you started to get that feeling that it was another frustrating loss to this team.
So here’s the deal — there’s nothing that can be done to get that game back. Baylor awaits Saturday. Like every team left on UF’s schedule, the Bears are good enough to beat Florida.
The Florida of Wednesday night.
“We can’t be a roller-coaster team,” said Koulechov.
Nobody can make that erratic ride stop but the guys on the court.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at email@example.com. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.