Florida Looking to Continue Winning Ways

While Saturday afternoon's game against South Carolina is dangerous, the Gators see a chance to make a statement. The hard fought, emotional overtime win against Tennessee on Tuesday night sets up the potential let down as they return home. Florida is determined not to let that happen.

"The key is to play how we've played the last couple games," sophomore guard Kenny Boynton said. "We've played to the level of our competition, like against Jacksonville."

The Gators, who have won 20 of the last 25 meetings, have dominated the history of the Florida-South Carolina series. Under Billy Donovan, the Gators are 20-10 against the Gamecocks and 11-3 in the O'Connell Center in that same span of time.

Since Darrin Horn was named the South Carolina head coach in 2008, the two teams have split four games.

"Billy is a great coach and will be a Hall of Famer," Horn said. "They've got really good players and veteran guys who shoot the ball well. They're big on the inside. They're very balanced and extremely long."

Saturday's game has the potential for excitement. The first matchup between the teams in each of the last two seasons has ended with a buzzer beating shot. In 2009, Gamecocks guard Zam Frederick made a layup at the buzzer to give South Carolina a 70-69 win.

The first meeting between the two teams last year came in Gainesville, when Chandler Parsons hit a three-point shot as time expired to give the Gators a 58-56 win.

South Carolina presents multiple challenges. They have multiple athletes on the team that are quick and can run the floor.

"They can press you and turn you over," Donovan said. "They've got guys who can make plays off the dribble. Our ability to defend that will be important."

The Gators come into this game as winners in eight of their last nine games, and a win Saturday would be the seventh time in the last ten years Florida has started SEC play 3-0.

To make that happen, the Gators must be able to score in the paint. The recent increase in offense has Florida averaging 78.2 in its last four games. Alex Tyus has seen his points increase, and Parsons has been effective scoring the ball and setting his teammates up. Center Vernon Macklin has been consistent all season scoring down low.

The Gamecocks start three forwards, but senior Sam Muldrow will likely be matched up with Macklin the most. He is averaging 9.5 points and 7.1 rebounds this season, and his presence around the basket has been felt. In a surprising win over Vanderbilt last Saturday in the SEC opener, Muldrow posted a triple double with 16 points, 14 rebounds and ten assists.

"Muldrow has developed into one of the better frontcourt players in our league," Donovan said. "He's a great shot blocker, and they're a great shot blocking team."

The Gators saw the Gamecocks shocking win over Vanderbilt on film, and it is serving as a wakeup call.

"They're not going to come in here and lay down," Parsons said. "I expect them to come in here and be a war."

When Devan Downey graduated after last season, it looked like South Carolina might be in trouble at the guard position. Instead, freshman Bruce Ellington stepped right into the mix. He is leading the team with 14.5 points per game and 3.7 assists.

"Ellington is probably as good as any freshman in our league.," Donovan said.

Florida forward Erik Murphy is listed as questionable with a foot injury, but Donovan expects him to play some. He was dressed to play at Tennessee and went through warmups, although he did not see any playing time.


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