Gators Fall Short in Columbia

COLUMBIA, S.C. - Florida basketball has stolen their share of games in the final minutes this season, including a last second win against South Carolina in Gainesville. Wednesday night, they let one they controlled most of the way get away from them and fell to the Gamecocks 77-71.

"We allowed them to hang around and play well down the stretch." said Florida coach Billy Donovan. "It was our carelessness in some situations."

Florida took the lead while the game was in single digits and maintained it throughout the majority of the action. They never were able to build the lead past eight due to a combination of turnovers and poor free throw shooting. Once South Carolina finally took a 51-50 lead on a Devan Downey bucket with 8:18 to go in the game, the Gators never got it back.

After an Alex Tyus layup tied the game at 53 with 7:01 to play, Florida did not get another basket from the field for almost five minutes. They had two turnovers and four missed free throws in that span, as well as some poorly chosen shots.

"There were plays down the stretch that didn't need to happen" said Donovan. "We also allowed some critical offensive rebounds."

"I didn't think we played a great game. It was there for the taking for us and them."

Florida was golden from the field, shooting 15-of-22 in the first half and 56 percent for the game. That success rate did not carry over to the foul line, as Florida went 10-of-23 on free throws. It robbed them of chances to build on their early lead and thwarted the possibility of a comeback.

One time in particular that stood out to Donovan was when Erving Walker was fouled on a three point attempt with the Gators up six in the closing minutes of the first half. The normally reliable Walker went just 1-of-3, and the Gamecocks subsequently were able to close the gap to 35-31 at the break.

"The free throw line really hurt us there," said Donovan.

The Gators turned the ball over 20 times on the night, throwing the ball away without any defensive pressure several times. South Carolina had just six turnovers for the evening.

Florida got double double performances from both Alex Tyus (11 points, 15 rebounds) and Chandler Parsons (13 and 11). Walker was the leading scorer with 20 points.

The Gators kept Gamecock star Devan Downey, who torched them for 36 in Gainesville, largely in check. He scored 24, but most of that came on free throws late as UF had to send him to the line. Downey's backcourt partner Brandis Raley-Ross was the bigger issue, hitting for 20 including four 3-pointers in the second half.

Florida falls to 17-7 on the season and is now 6-4 in conference play. The Gators step outside the SEC for the final time this season on Saturday as they host Xavier.

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