HOOPS: The Comeback: It Began With A Simple Goal

The goal was to simply get one stop on defense and then on the offensive end of the court, get all five players to execute one play properly. That's not exactly the most complicated of solutions but it was the best one the Florida Gators had to offer Sunday afternoon in Columbia. They were getting hammered by the South Carolina Gamecocks and the first thought was get out of Columbia without the embarrassment of a 30-point blowout.

"I remember the time out coming out of the huddle and we're down by 17," said David Lee, whose tip-in with 12.6 seconds remaining in the game gave the Gators a 66-65 victory. "We said let's get one stop at a time and make sure that one time on offense all five of us execute a play."

At that point, Florida was teetering on the verge of a shocking blowout. There was no margin for error because at the time, South Carolina was doing everything right and the Gators couldn't even run a play properly. All Florida could think about was chipping away and somehow making it respectable.

"We came out of that huddle thinking we were not going to let them embarrass us like this on the road," recalled Lee at Florida's basketball media day Monday morning. "It could have easily gone to 30 points and suddenly we're embarrassed in front of our friends and family on national television."

Florida got the first half of its simple plan, the defensive stop, and then followed that up by running a play well enough that Lee Humphrey got open on the wing for a three-pointer.

"Lee Humphrey hits a three and all of a sudden we look up there and it's 14, and we got another stop and a score and we thought maybe we have a chance," said Lee. "We were just taking it one stop at a time and one possession at a time."

It wasn't a quick process. The Gators kept grinding it out, one possession at a time. They were down 15 (57-42) with 11:06 remaining in the game. It would be nearly nine minutes before they would allow another score from the field by the Gamecocks.

What was hampering the comeback was the fact Florida wasn't hitting shots, either. The Gators were cold from the field in the first half and that resulted in a 37-27 South Carolina lead. The Gamecocks expanded the differential in the second half largely because the Gators couldn't throw one in the ocean if they were standing on the end of the pier.

"We shot worse in the second half than in the first so that speaks volumes about how far we've come defensively," said Matt Walsh, who contributed five key points down the stretch.

At the 9:37 mark, Antoine Tisby got a technical foul after being called for a reach in foul on David Lee. Florida got a free throw by Anthony Roberson and two foul shots by Lee to cut the margin down to nine points. At that point, the Gators knew they could pull out a victory. Coach Billy Donovan would say after the game that at the 10 minute mark in the game, he saw a look in his team's eye that let him know that somehow they were going to win.

After the free throws, Lee said, "We knew this isn't anything a quick 6-0 run and we're back in the thick of things. We thought we could win it."

There were no quick runs, though. This was grind it out basketball. Florida fought hard to get stops on the defensive end and then struggled to get points when the ball was in the Gators hands.

"In the past we had a tendency to pout and sulk when we didn't hit shots, but we didn't do that," said Walsh, whose three-pointer at the 2:36 mark finally got the Gators over the hump. Walsh admitted that the moment he let the ball fly, instead of thinking about the shot, he had already turned his mind to defense.

"At that point I was thinking about getting back on defense and getting a stop," said Walsh. "At that point our team had the attitude that we had come from this far back that we were not losing!"

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