No. 4 Florida crushes South Carolina
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)
Florida's latest victory made the previous six seem like nail-biters.
''It's fun,'' guard Scottie Wilbekin said. ''It's working out great for us, and we're just going to keep playing. And if that's the outcome, we're happy with that.''
The Gators, who won their ninth game in a row, led 33-10 at halftime and made their first five shots after the break. They opened a 31-point lead that seemingly couldn't get any more lopsided.
Then it did.
Florida (17-2, 7-0 SEC) pulled ahead 55-15 on Wilbekin's floater in the lane with 12:32 remaining, sending the happy home crowd to the exits even earlier than usual this season.
The Gamecocks (12-8, 2-5), meanwhile, seemed dazed on the floor and the bench. It was the program's fewest points in a conference game. The previous low was 40 against Kentucky in 1999.
''They did the same thing they've done to every opponent this year,'' South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. ''They're rock solid; they're sound.''
Michael Carrera led South Carolina with 13 points and nine rebounds. None of his teammates reached double figures.
''It was a great defensive job as a team for us,'' Boynton said. ''Honestly, we're not surprised.''
The Gators have enjoyed seven blowouts in as many conference games. They won the first six by an average of 26.5 points. They had that covered early in the second half.
Pat Young opened the second half by hitting a left-handed hook shot. Boynton and Rosario followed with consecutive 3-pointers. Young hit a jumper — yes, a rare jumper for the 6-foot-9 center — and Boynton drained another 3 that pushed the lead to 46-13.
That second-half spurt was exactly what coach Billy Donovan wanted when he challenged his players in the locker room.
''When you're up by a large margin, that does not give you the right not to do your job,'' Donovan said. ''The scoreboard's got nothing to do with responsibility on the court, and they've done a pretty good of playing every possession.''
Florida overwhelmed South Carolina from the opening tip, doing just about everything right.
It had to ease Donovan's mind some. After all, the Gators came into the game with their highest ranking since the 2006-07 season, and Donovan expressed concern earlier in this week when he talked about his players needing to ''drive our car with two hands on the wheel inside the lane and looking at what's in front.''
The Gators had no issues staying focused.
In fact, they probably could have been stopped for speeding.
Florida led 11-2 in the first 6 minutes of the game, pulled ahead 21-4 at the halfway point of the first half and probably could have named their score after that.
The Gamecocks had three baskets, two assists and 11 turnovers at the break. Guards Bruce Ellington and Eric Smith had four points between them, combining to go 1 for 9 from the field. They also combined for seven turnovers and no assists.
''Coach sat everyone down and said we lost by a pretty good margin,'' South Carolina guard Lakeem Jackson said. ''He said to take it like a man and learn from it so the next time we play them we know how to handle things.''
About the only things that went wrong for Florida were free throws.
The Gators missed nine of 16 shots from the charity stripe in the first half, five of them by Young.
Still, it was a minor bump in another blowout.
Florida shot 53 percent from the field, made 12 of 21 shots from 3-point range and dominated the glass.
Young, Wilbekin and Erik Murphy had eight points apiece for the Gators. Michael Frazier chipped in 12 points and seven rebounds off the bench. Frazier made all four of his shots from beyond the arc. Even forward Casey Prather, who was not expected to play while recovering from a high ankle sprain, got in the game.
''The more you win like this, the more you show what you're capable of and the more responsibility you have because you're playing at a certain level and you've shown a certain level,'' Donovan said. ''What you want to try to do as a basketball team is not go backwards a step but to continue to grow and get better and improve. And understand that that's the No. 1 priority: getting better. We've got to get better. All this other stuff doesn't mean anything.''