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Jan 24, 2018; Gainesville, FL, USA; South Carolina Gamecocks forward Chris Silva (30) shoots over Florida Gators forward Kevarrius Hayes (13) during the second half at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

South Carolina Shocks Florida In SEC Opener

The Florida Gators maintained a lead over the South Carolina Gamecocks for more than 34 minutes on Saturday night.

The Gators led by double digits multiple times in the 2nd half, but went without a field goal in the final seven minutes of the game to lose 71-69. Hassani Gravett kept South Carolina in the game with 22 points, six rebounds, three assists and three steals, but it was Chris Silva (18 points, five rebounds) who had the go-ahead dunk with 2.5 seconds remaining in the game.

Rough Start to SEC Play

The Gators struggled mightily down the stretch because of South Carolina’s defensive pressure.

Kevarrius Hayes had an opportunity to give the Gators the lead with 3.5 seconds remaining, as they were down one point with the big man at the line for two free throws. Hayes, who has shot over 60% from the line this season, missed the first one but was able to connect on the second one. The following possession, Chris Silva went up and over a jumping Hayes to catch a full court baseball pass to make way for an easy go-ahead dunk.

The Gators have been plagued by their inability to score points for long stretches of the game.

UF made 9 of their 27 shots in the 2nd half. More specifically, they made one of their final 12 shots. Seniors KeVaughn Allen and Jalen Hudson were nowhere to be found as the Gators saw the Gamecocks slowly creep back into the game. Head coach Mike White always preaches that he wants to see Allen shoot the ball often and with confidence. That did not happen on Saturday night, with the senior only taking six shots. Instead, it was freshmen Andrew Nembhard and Noah Locke doing most of the ball handling and scoring.

Locke led the team with 17 points, while Nembhard added 10 points, seven assists and three steals. Nembhard has led the Gators in assists in every single game this season.

Florida is the only team in Division I basketball that has not had a player score over 20 points in a game all season.

What’s Next?

Saturday’s loss was the Gators first SEC opening loss in the Mike White era. It also breaks a streak of six straight SEC opening wins.

The Gators will have to forget about this one and bounce back as they prepare for a road match-up with the Arkansas Razorbacks on Wednesday night. Tipoff between Arkansas and Florida will be at 8:30 pm. A live telecast can be seen on the SEC Network. Radio coverage of the game can be heard on ESPN Gainesville 98.1 FM/850 AM WRUF.

About Danny Villanueva

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