Gators struggling to maintain intensity

South Carolina didn't look like it would provide much opposition through the first six minutes on Wednesday in the O'Connell Center. Florida sprinted out to a 14-1 lead while the Gamecocks turned the ball over seven times in that span. South Carolina didn't go away, cutting Florida's lead to eight points in the second half and make Florida's conference opener a game at the time.

In the end, it didn't matter much. Florida cruised to a 74-58 win over South Carolina to open conference play. But it's what happened late in the first half and early in the second half that had Billy Donovan angry after the Gators beat the Gamecocks for the fifth straight time.

The Florida lead got up to 28-10 before South Carolina coach Frank Martin burned a 30-second timeout. After that, the Gamecocks closed the lead on an 11-6 run. They opened the second half with another 11-6 run that cut the Florida lead to 40-32 just over five minutes into the second half.

"I don't know what it is, but we have a very hard time sustaining intensity," Donovan said. "When you look at (last year's seniors Kenny Boynton, Erik Murphy and Mike Rosario), there was an intensity to those guys. They understood how to get some stops and do those things. (This year) we've let teams back into games. We're going to have to do something to get that corrected."

The Gators soon pushed the lead back out to over 20 points and took control of the game when they felt a scare from South Carolina. It happened earlier in the year against Kansas and other times when the veteran Florida roster gets comfortable in games.

The players know it's the case. Last year, the three seniors were able to take the reigns of the team and be the vocal leaders. This year's four seniors -- Casey Prather, Scottie Wilbekin, Will Yeguete and Patric Young -- were able to sit back. Now they're forced to lead.

"There is a recurring them that when we are playing against a team that we know we're better than on paper, and they don't have the best record, we allow human nature to kick in and us have a mindset of relaxing a little bit instead of the killer mindset of keep pushing and pursuing greatness," Young said. "We have to get better at that. We have to keep pushing ourselves to get better."

The frustration on the Florida bench was noticeable. Donovan was angry throughout it, and multiple Florida assistants weren't much happier.

The standard was set in the first half. The Gators held South Carolina without a field goal for the first 9:23 of the game and held them to 31.6 percent from the field in the first half. When the defense slacked, the Gamecocks were able to take advantage.

"I feel like we kind of took a step back early, but then Coach Donovan got on us kind of hard so that helped," Prather said.


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