No. 1 Florida beats South Carolina 72-46
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Michael Frazier II got one directive from his Florida teammates against South Carolina – whenever he saw daylight on the court, let the ball fly.
The result was a school-record 11 3-pointers – the most ever in a Southeastern Conference game – and career-high 37 points as Frazier helped the top-ranked Gators move a game away from a perfect SEC regular season with a 72-46 victory over South Carolina on Tuesday night.
”They told me if I got a crack to let it go,” Frazier said.
That was the easy part for Frazier, the sophomore who frequently found himself open and made the Gamecocks pay.
”Somehow, some way we didn’t express to our players that Michael Frazier can shoot the basketball,” South Carolina coach Frank Martin said.
The Gators (28-2, 17-0 SEC) are a game away from going undefeated in the SEC, something no team not named Kentucky has accomplished since Alabama’s 14-0 run in 1956. Florida coach Billy Donovan shrugged that off, preaching his players will take the same approach to Saturday’s Senior Day meetings with the Wildcats as they have each game all season.
”I still think there’s things in front of this team,” he said. ”We can’t get wrapped up in the moment.”
Frazier’s performance topped the 1986 mark of Florida’s Joe Lawrence, who had nine against California. It was also the most ever in a league contest, although Rotnei Clarke hit 13 in 2010 and Alex Dillard made 12 in 1994 but both Arkansas players did it against non-conference opponents.
Frazier didn’t feel anything special in warm-ups, but knew he was onto something with his five 3-pointers in the first half.
In the second half, it was Frazier who broke things open with four 3s during a 23-5 run after the Gamecocks (11-19, 4-13) had cut a double-digit lead to 39-35.
”We were just really amazed at how open he was getting and how he kept knocking them down,” Florida center Patric Young said.
No other Gator reached double digits in points.
Mindaugus Kacinas had 12 points to lead South Carolina, which was coming off a win over Kentucky.
Frazier blew past his old career best of 21 points set earlier this season against Texas A&M. He was 11 of 18 from 3-point range while the rest of the Gators were 0 of 13.
The Gators built an 11-point lead early in the second half but Brenton Williams had a four-point play and followed with a 3-pointer to get the Gamecocks within 39-35 with 13:05 left.
But Frazier connected on a 3, Young had a three-point play and the rout was on. Frazier added four more 3-pointers over the next 6 minutes to stretch the lead to 62-39 with 4:42 left.
As time wound down, South Carolina students chanted ”Georgia Southern,” reminding the Gators of their football loss to the FCS school last fall.
Florida came in having clinched the SEC regular-season title last week when second-place Kentucky was beaten twice, including a surprise 72-67 loss here to the Gamecocks last Saturday.
The Gators steadily moved through in pushing to the unbeaten conference season, a run that started in January with a 74-58 win over South Carolina.
Florida, though, has not dominated on the road the way it has at home in recent weeks, winning its past four road games by an average of six points. This one proved just as tight for the top-ranked team in the first half.
Frazier started off hot with two of his five first-half 3-pointers to give the Gators a 7-0 lead. Florida’s defense forced three turnovers in the first 5 minutes.
But the Gamecocks, still fresh from the court-storming celebration three days ago, took Florida’s punch and came out swinging themselves with a 12-2 run to move in front and stayed with the nation’s top team the rest of the half.
There were four ties and five lead changes over the final 10 minutes and it was Frazier who broke the last tie with his last 3 of the period to send the Gators to the break ahead 28-26.
Frazier had 15 points in the period as the rest of Florida’s big guns misfired in the opening half. Leading scorer Casey Prather was held to one free throw while Scottie Wilbekin was just 1-of-5 shooting for two points.
Young finished with nine points and Prather had seven. Wilbekin did not score in the second half.