It’s never easy to accept a loss, but the Florida Gators men’s basketball team shouldn’t be discouraged by the result against the South Carolina Gamecocks.
The Florida Gators men’s basketball team is in the midst of a resurgence under second-year head coach Mike White. It’s emerged as one of the Top 25 teams in the country by defeating quality opponents and holding their own against the nation’s elite.
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Though the Jan. 18 loss to the South Carolina Gamecocks may have hurt, there was a silver lining to be found in the loss.
Florida fell to South Carolina by a score of 57-53 at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia. It was a sloppy and low-scoring game that saw the Gators squander a seven-point lead at halftime and lose its first SEC game of the season.
It was also a stellar performance by a defense that was tasked with containing one of the best players in the nation.
For those unfamiliar, South Carolina star Sindarius Thornwell is a favorite for SEC Player of the Year. He’s currently averaging 18.3 points, 6.9 rebounds, 3.3 assists, 2.5 steals, 1.1 block, and 1.5 3-point field goals made on a slash line of .454/.409/.805.
Against the Gators, however, Thornwell had to work for his 20 points as Mike White’s crew ran him off the 3-point line and made him pay when he drove the lane.
Most impressively, Florida held South Carolina’s other players to a combined shooting mark of 10-of-40 from the field. It committed 27 fouls and sent the Gamecocks to the line for 34 free throw attempts, but clamped down in the half court.
It wasn’t a flawless performance by Florida’s defense, but it was an encouraging sign of progress.
The Gators had allowed four of their past six opponents to score at least 70 points. They allowed 63 points to the Ole Miss Rebels and 67 to the Alabama Crimson Tide in the two exceptions to those extreme defensive lapses.
On the season, Florida is allowing 66.6 points per game—a number that ranks outside of the Top 60 in the country.
Not only was the defense strong, but Florida only lost to South Carolina because of how unfathomably poor the offense was. It shot 0-of-17 from beyond the arc and 15-of-28 from the free throw line, as well as 19-of-54 from the field.
The Gators also doubled up their assists with turnovers, recording eight dimes and coughing it up 16 times.