Win Combines Positives and Negatives

The Gators posted an important SEC road win over the South Carolina Gamecocks that showed how good this team can be and how far they still have to go. Florida's 73-71 victory improved the Gators to 17-3 on the season, 4-1 in the SEC and edged Billy Donovan's youthful squad ever closer to a 20-win season.

The win in Columbia was a mixed bag to be sure. The Gators got sensational efforts from Nick Calathes and Marreese Speights, but erratic play from the rest of the squad. Florida would at times play excellent defense and force Carolina into bad shots, but if those shots went in the young Gators were obviously discouraged on the next possession.

First the Positives

You can never understate the importance of SEC road wins. Any road win in the conference is a great win and getting one when down nine (52-43) in the second half is even more significant.

The Gators got a big time effort from Marreese Speights in this one as the big fella contributed a double-double (22/13). Speights offered up one of his most complete performances of the season, following up on excellent play against Kentucky which is a really good sign.

Nick Calathes continues to show why he is one of the top ten freshmen in the entire country. Calathes poured in 21 points and played with poise and maturity throughout the night. As usual he was playing guys who were older and more experienced, and as usual he responded with a big time performance.

Jai Lucas was able to shake off his sore knee and be the Gators' third best player on the night with nine points on a trio from long range. His two three-point baskets were key scores as the Gators rallied during the middle part of the second half.

The Gators won despite being out shot from the field by a South Carolina team that can really stroke the jumper. They took care of the ball, committing just nine turnovers in the contest and won the battle of the boards 33-31.

Now The Negatives

Well the first thing that jumps out at you was Florida's failure to convert on a pair of 1-and-1 opportunities in the final 13.3 seconds. Jai Lucas and Nick Calathes both came up short with a chance to put the game out of reach. At this level you simply must make those free throws.

The Gators spent too much time in a zone and were too lazy in that zone, allowing way too many open three point shots. South Carolina took full advantage by knocking down half of their 20 attempts from long range.

Walter Hodge really struggled with the flow of the game this time, committing bad fouls, turning it over and missing wide open shots. Alex Tyus and Jonathan Mitchell didn't give Florida much and Chandler Parsons added just five. Florida must get better productivity off the bench.

Looking Ahead

Earlier this week I wrote about the blueprint for the Gators to earn a tenth consecutive NCAA Tournament bid and this win is a bonus for that blueprint. Florida can now play a little looser at home Sunday when Vanderbilt comes to town. A win there and this team stops thinking about a winning record in the SEC and changes the thought process to contending for an SEC Championship. that's not something that seemed realistic in November, but if the Gators win this weekend it will become a very legitimate possibility.

Questions or comments? Contact FightinGators.com's Larry Vettel


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