#12 Florida Gators (22-5, 12-2 SEC) vs South Carolina Gamecocks (20-7, 10-4 SEC)
Gainesville Florida; Exactech Arena
Tuesday February 21, 2017; 7 p.m.
It really was a defensive struggle last time the two teams met. It was the last road loss for the gators before they went on an eight game winning streak and the Gamecocks just have a way of making you play ugly.
And it was ugly.
Florida shot 0-17 from behind the arc, the first time they didn’t make a single shot from three-point land in over two decades. The Gators also turned the ball over 16 times, a team that leads the SEC in fewest turnovers per game. But, South Carolina leads the league in causing turnovers.
The Gamecocks like to take other teams out of their offensive rhythm. At the time of that game, Florida was still trying to find some offensive consistency. In the last eight games they have done that for the most part and save for some injuries that will keep some out or limit some others, the Gators look to be in a better rhythm.
Florida head coach Mike White knows what he wants to see from his team.
"Don't go 0-17 from 3,” he said emphatically at his press conference on Monday. “We've got to go at least 1-17 to have a better shot. They're doing a lot of things similarly; we are too. We've got to convert, but we've also got to do a better job of getting better looks. We can't allow South Carolina to speed us up as much as they did at their place, and then we've got to have a similar or better defensive effort and I thought we defended pretty well over there."
The Gators have been pretty good on the year in terms of turnovers, but in the last game with South Carolina and in Saturday’s game against Mississippi State the team had 16. He needs the guards to control themselves a little better.
“We’ve got to slow down a little bit and stop trying to hit grand slams,” White said. “We tried to make some pretty passes the other day. Our guards have seen all of those clips. We've gotta be more sound. We've got to slow down a little bit. We've got to stop pressing. When teams get into a good defensive rhythm, we're not gonna make a 10-point shot. The quicker you get the guy the ball, the fancier the pass, you don't get more points for that.
“We've just got to be (sounder). We've got to play off of two feet. We made a couple jump passes the other day with little guys. Little guys making jump passes, it doesn't work at this level. We've seen that movie a few times. And I know it doesn't work against the Gamecocks."
On a run like the Gators are, you would expect a bit of confidence. But with the season ending injury to center John Egbunu, a sprained ankle that might keep swing man Canyon Barry out Tuesday night, and a couple of more guys banged up, there is a little trepidation heading into the close of the season.
“If you have 13 guys really healthy and you've got no injuries, I'm sure you're probably a little bit more confident than you are right now,” White said of his team. “But I think our guys feel like we have enough if we play well. We've got to make better decisions against these guys. Obviously, you're gonna have a few open looks, not many, against the Gamecocks. And we've got to make a couple. We've got to convert at the foul line. We're gonna get fouled. And then defensively, you know, we've got to keep Kevarrius (Hayes) out of foul trouble. Schuyler (Rimmer) has gotta be productive. Hopefully Keith (Stone) can be improved today with his (health). And just find a way."
South Carolina is still one of the best teams in the conference and has played well most of the season but find themselves with three losses in the last four games. Despite that, White thinks they are as tough a team to match up against as anyone.
”Not a lot,” White said of what is different between the Gamecocks now and when they last played each other. “I mean, close losses, league play. Some of it is the schedule. Could've easily won a couple of those and they'd be ranked. They're a terrific team. (They) play as hard as anyone in college basketball.”
Most likely the player of the year in the SEC, senior guard Sindarius Thornwell is a tough out for anyone. He’s averaging over 21 points a game and scored 20 on the Gators the last time they played. White expects Thornwell and their entire team to really want it.
“Sindarius Thornwell, he's a man,” White said. “He's had an incredible senior year. He's had some incredible finishes to games, both offensively and defensively. Collectively, they really, really guard you. PJ Dozier is terrific. Chris Silva is one of the most improved players in the country probably, in my opinion. They're just really good. I just say this: I would imagine that they'd be very hungry coming in here tomorrow night. It'll be a high-level basketball game."
GATORS VS. GAMECOCKS COMPARISONS