Allen scores 26, No. 13 Florida tops South Carolina 81-66 (Feb 21, 2017)

Florida guard Kasey Hill (0) dunks over South Carolina guard Sindarius Thornwell (0) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2017, in Gainesville, Fla. (AP Photo/Matt Stamey)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) Florida refused to get shut out again from 3-point range against South Carolina.

KeVaughn Allen needed just one shot to make sure it didn’t happen.

Allen scored 26 points, a considerably better performance than his last game against the Gamecocks, and the 13th-ranked Gators beat South Carolina 81-66 on Tuesday night.

”KeVaughn Allen obviously was geeked up to come here and play,” Gamecocks coach Frank Martin said.

Devin Robinson added 14 points for Florida, which won its ninth consecutive game and locked up one of the top four seeds – and a double bye – in the upcoming Southeastern Conference Tournament. Chris Chiozza and Kasey Hill chipped in 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Sindarius Thornwell led South Carolina with 23 points and 10 rebounds. Duane Notice added 16 points.

The difference in the game was the 3-point line. Florida, which missed all 17 shots from behind the arc in a 57-53 loss in Columbia a month ago, made 9 of 19 from that range Tuesday. Six of those came in the decisive second half.

Allen got it started with a 3 from the top of the key. Justin Leon hit two from the corner, and Robinson made two more.

”We’re at home. We’ve got to knock down those shots at the crib,” Robinson said. ”We just shot with confidence. Coach told us to let it fly, let it go, play defense, rebound and the rest would handle itself.”

South Carolina (20-8, 10-5) dropped its third in a row and fourth in five games.

The Gators (23-5, 13-2) looked much more comfortable in their second game without center John Egbunu, who is out for the season with a torn ligament in his left knee. Sophomore Kevarrius Hayes finished with seven points, six rebounds and three steals.

Getting Allen going helped even more. The shooting guard made 5 of 7 shots, including 3 of 5 from 3-point range. He also made 13 of 14 from the free throw line and chipped in six rebounds and three assists.

Allen missed all three shots and scored a single point at South Carolina a month ago.

”It was really big just to see the ball go through the hole,” said Allen, who swished his first 3 of the game on Florida’s opening possession. ”It gave me a lot of confidence throughout the game.”

BIG PICTURE

South Carolina: The Gamecocks need to win out and have Florida lose three in a row to get one of the top two seeds in the league’s tournament. If not, they likely will have to face Kentucky or the Gators in the semifinals in Nashville, Tennessee.

Florida: The Gators can move considerably closer to clinching the top seed in Nashville with a win at Kentucky on Saturday. Regardless of what happens at Rupp Arena, though, Florida has improved its chances of landing a top-four seed in the NCAA Tournament and opening play in nearby Orlando.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

Florida has a chance to potentially move into the Top 10 in the AP poll next week, but will need to win at No. 11 Kentucky on Saturday to make it happen.

STICKING WITH SIN

South Carolina trailed by 12 points in the first half, but used a 17-2 run to take the lead. Martin gambled by putting leading scorer Thornwell back in the game with two fouls.

”I didn’t want the game to get away from us in the first half,” Martin said.

UP NEXT

South Carolina: After consecutive road games, Gamecocks return home to play Tennessee on Saturday.

Florida: Gators conclude a huge week by playing Kentucky on Saturday, a game that could decide the league’s regular-season champion and top seed in the SEC Tournament.

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