Gators hold on at South Carolina

Last week, the Florida Gators fell just short of a comeback win at Ole Miss, but on Wednesday night, they had just enough time to beat South Carolina, 73-71, for their fourth SEC win. Marreese Speights led the Gators with a double-double, scoring 22 points and grabbing 14 rebounds.

The Gators (17-3, 4-1 SEC) overcame a nine-point second half lead to steal a win on the road against the Gamecocks (9-9, 1-3 SEC). In addition to Speights' big night, Nick Calathes also dropped 21 points, making 3-of-6 from behind the arc and hitting 6-of-7 free throws.

South Carolina's freshman guard Devan Downey started fast, scoring seven points in the game's first five minutes. Downey's back-to-back jumpers gave the Gamecocks an early four-point lead, but a bucket and free throw from Speights cut it back to one, 12-11.

Both teams struggled to score, making just one field goal apiece over a four-minute span, but another jumper by Downey stretched South Carolina's lead to seven points, 22-15 with 8:31 left in the first half. The Gators responded with two buckets from Dan Werner who finished with seven points and a pair of rebounds.

Florida grabbed its first lead of the game when Calathes scored his 11th point of the first half at the 4:50 mark, giving the Gators a slim one-point margin, 26-25. The Gamecocks answered with a 13-4 run to take an eight-point lead, but a 3-pointer from Jai Lucas and a dunk by Speights narrowed the gap to just two at the half, 38-36.

The second half turned out to be a half of runs. After Chandler Parsons scored with 17:10 left to give Florida a 43-41 lead, The Gamecocks ran off 11 straight points in just a two-minute span. Downey scored four points and shooting guard Zam Frederick nailed a 3 and scored five during the stretch.

Florida answered with eight straight points of their own, cutting South Carolina's lead to one, 52-51, with 11:11 left. Speights led the way with a pair of buckets and Walter Hodge, who later fouled out, nailed a 3-pointer.

South Carolina responded with a 9-2 run, including a deep 3-pointer from Frederick. But trailing by eight points, Florida ended the game on a 20-10 run. The Gators hit four 3-pointers down the stretch, two from Lucas and one each from Calathes and Werner and led by six with 12.6 seconds left in the game.

Florida missed the front ends of back-to-back 1-and-1 opportunities, giving the Gamecocks a chance. Trailing by two, Downey missed a three-quarter court shot at the buzzer, and the Gators escaped with a 73-71 victory.

The Gators face only their second ranked opponent on Sunday when No. 13 Vanderbilt comes to the O'Dome. With the win, Florida takes a half-game lead over Tennessee in the SEC East standings.

Questions or comments? Contact's Chris Chmielenski

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