UF/USC Scouting Report

Florida gets their second shot of the season at South Carolina tonight, just 13 days after losing to the Gamecocks on a miracle finish in Columbia. The timing is curious, as it will complete one SEC East division series prior to UF getting a first look at Kentucky.

Even though the January 21 loss is fresh in the Gators' mind, there are some notable differences between the team they got ready for then and the one they will face in the O'Connell Center.

South Carolina has won four straight, a stretch which began with their victory over Florida and most recently saw them defeat Kentucky in Rupp Arena for the first time in 11 years. They're playing with great confidence compared to the last meeting, which saw South Carolina coming in off back-to-back road defeats. The winning streak coincides with Darrin Horn making a change in his starting lineup.

Against Florida, Horn opted to start forwards Mike Holmes and Sam Muldrow at the same time. Holmes, who posted a double-double on his last trip to Gainesville, has played well but Muldrow has been the difference maker. He's averaged eight points and seven rebounds while playing just 20 minutes per game during the winning streak. Opening with Holmes and Muldrow together gives the Gamecocks their biggest possible look and keeps Dominique Archie at his more natural small forward spot.

The key to South Carolina's offense is always their terrific point guard Devan Downey. The junior is the reigning SEC player of the week and hit the game-winner against Kentucky. Downey will penetrate with his tremendous speed but can drain long distance shots as well. As much attention as Zam Fredrick's last second layup to beat UF got, it wouldn't have been possible without Downey nailing a difficult three pointer two possessions earlier.

Fredrick, Downey's backcourt partner, is a streaky scorer. If he's hot he can pile up points quickly but he's also prone to cold spells. He scored 24 on Kentucky in Rupp after struggling through an 11-for-41 shooting stretch in the Gamecocks three game homestand. No matter what, Fredrick will put the ball up a lot. He's taken a dozen or more shots in every SEC game South Carolina's played this season.

Florida can expect a lot of opportunities for layups if they execute successfully against South Carolina's press. Darrin Horn's gameplan is to disrupt the Gators enough to prevent them from setting up to run a half court set whenever possible, and he says he's willing to concede some easy baskets to achieve that goal. Rebounding is not a South Carolina strength, as they've been outdone by six per game even during the winning streak.

One Achilles Heel for South Carolina is their performance at the free throw line. They're hitting just 63 percent of their attempts, the tenth best mark in the conference. This is a natural letdown spot for the Gamecocks, coming off a huge emotional road win against Kentucky. They're dealing with a quick turnaround from arriving back from Lexington Saturday night and leaving for Gainesville Monday.

Florida's doubtless motivated by both the frustration of letting South Carolina escape in Columbia and the disappointment of their performance in Knoxville. Couple that with what should be a raucous home crowd and a 9:00 p.m. tip and this appears to be a promising setup for the Gators to reclaim first place in the SEC East.

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