Playing at home? Check.
First half shooting struggles? Check.
Manageable halftime deficit? Check.
Second half surge? Check.
For the fourth time at home in SEC play this season, the Gamecocks followed that script to perfection, gutting out a 77-71 win over Florida at Colonial Life Arena on Wednesday night.
South Carolina shot a forgettable 14-of-37 (38%) in the opening half, but trailed only 35-31 at the break. The Gamecocks were 0-of-9 from behind the arc.
“We were getting great looks, but they weren’t going in,” said South Carolina Head Coach Darrin Horn.
The Gamecocks were able to keep the Gators from getting too much of an advantage by capitalizing on Florida miscues. Florida turned the ball over 12 times in the first half while South Carolina had only three turnovers.
Leading scorer Devan Downey had just eight points in the opening period. Junior Sam Muldrow led the Gamecocks with 10 points.
“Tonight we wanted to compete and keep playing the next play regardless of how things were going,” said Horn.
Senior guard Brandis Raley-Ross said the team was confident at halftime about shot selection.
“It wasn’t like we were taking bad shots,” he said. “We knew if we kept taking good shots and moving the ball around offensively, they were going to go in.”
In the second half, shots started falling for the Gamecocks while the Gators continued to turn the ball over. The surge started to build and South Carolina would take the lead for good with six and half minutes to go.
Raley-Ross credited defensive pressure (the Gamecocks would force 20 Gator turnovers) as the factor that pushed South Carolina past Florida.
“Defense – we were preaching it at every huddle,” he said. “We knew we could do what we wanted offensively – it was all about defense.”
Raley-Ross scored 17 points in the second half, including four three-pointers. Downey got on track as well, finishing with 24 points.
“The second half effort was much better,” said Horn. “We played with a lot more energy on both ends of the court. It was a terrific total team effort.”
Key Box Score
|Total FG-FGA||3 pt FG-FGA||FT-FTA||Rebs||Pts||Assts||TO||Blk||Stl||Min|
|G Brandis Raley-Ross||6-15||4-11||4-6||2||20||2||2||0||2||33|
Early in the second half, Downey drove inside and kicked it out to Raley-Ross for a 3-point attempt. Raley-Ross faked and passed the ball away. His head coach was less than pleased.
“I told him at the media timeout that he leads the country in shot fakes,” said Horn. “I told him if he passed up another 3, he was coming out.”
The senior guard heeded the call, hitting 4-of-8 from behind the arc in the second half to score 20 points. The 20-point effort was a season-high for Raley-Ross and tied his career high.
“Brandis was huge and made some really big shots for us in the second half,” said Horn.
“He told me he was going to take me out so I let it fly,” said Raley-Ross. “It felt good to make them down the stretch like that.”
- South Carolina forced 20 Florida turnovers, a season-high for the Gators.
- The Gamecocks scored 20 points off Gator turnovers.
- South Carolina forced 20 or more turnovers for the ninth time this season.
- Tonight was the first time this year that two Gamecocks have scored 20 or more points in the game.
- Tonight was also the first time since the loss to Vanderbilt on Jan. 16 that more than two Gamecocks scored in double figures.
- Florida struggled from the free throw line, making only 9-of-22 attempts.
“Devan has been so good and so special that I think the effort our entire team is putting forth…has gone a little overlooked. Our guys are continuing to fight and play to find a way to win,” – Darrin Horn.