GAINESVILLE -- Florida beat South Carolina 85-82 at O'Connell Center on Wednesday to give the Gators their 10th 20-season in as many years. More importantly, the Gators figured out how to win a close game in league play.
Florida had a comfortable lead midway through the second half but South Carolina cut Florida's lead to two points in the final minute. Unlike its loss to Vanderbilt on Saturday, Florida kept its cool in the final seconds against South Carolina to earn an important win.
Florida guard Nick Calathes led Florida with 17 points, four rebounds and seven assists. Center Mo Speights had 10 points and 10 rebounds. Florida is off this weekend and back in action next week Wednesday at Georgia. Georgia is tough at home and a Florida win will help its efforts to impress the NCAA Tournament selection committee.
LIVE ACTION BELOW
(Live blogging had to cut short tonight because of deadline issues. Gotta make that deadline, folks.)
Gators and Gamecocks trading three-pointers at a remarkable rate now. South Carolina has two three-pointers this half but Florida has three. Werner and Calathes have made back-to-back treys to give Florida a 13-point lead. UF 59, USC 46; 15:53.
Three-pointer for Florida's Walter Hodge to begin the half and then Mo Speights slammed another monstrous dunk. Hodge is 4-of-7 from three-point range. UF 53, USC 40; 17:38.
A FEW HALFTIME NOTES: Both teams are shooting an incredible percentage from three-point range. Florida has made 7-of-11 three-pointers for 63 percent while South Carolina has made 6-of-9 three-pointers for 66.7 percent...Florida reserve Adam Allen has made 3-of-3 from behind the arc...Florida guard Nick Calathes already has six assists.
Pretty exciting end to the first half. Calathes stripped South Carolina guard Devan Downey with a minute left and assisted Marreese Speights, who offered one of his most powerful dunks of the season. South Carolina's Dwayne Day responded with a three-pointer and then Florida's Jai Lucas scored at the buzzer with a driving lay-up. UF 46, USC 36; HALFTIME
Allen makes another three-pointer. UF 42, USC 31; 149. Bye-bye Allen. Billy D subbed him.
Allen still in the game. We're assuming Billy D is sick of watching Chandler Parsons play terrible defense. South Carolina is 5-of-7 from three-point range (71 percent). Calathes scores a lay-up on an assist from Allen. UF 37, USC 31; 3:43.
OK, Allen has swished two three-pointers. Let's see if Billy D benches him. UF 35, USC 31; 4:57.
Country Boy Adam Allen in the game. He'll swish two three-pointers and then Billy D will bench him for the game.
Gamecocks on a 7-0 run after two baskets inside from Mike Holmes and a three-pointer from Evaldas Baniulis. Baniulis has nine points (3-of-3 from three-point range). UF 26, USC 22; 7:59.
Was going to say Florida was playing consistent man-defense, but then UF's Chandler Parsons left Devan Downey wide open for a three-pointer. UF 22, USC 15; 11:50.
Florida's Dan Werner and Alex Tyus have combined to score the Gators last nine points. Tyus had a dunk to Florida a 12-7 lead (15:40) and Werner followed that with a three-pointer (nice assists Walter Hodge). UF 19, USC 12; 13:47.
The Gators are off to a quick start, taking a 10-5 lead after two three-pointers from Walter Hodge and a nice defense -- WHAT!?! -- from guard Jai Lucas.
Florida (19-7, 6-5 in SEC) has lost four of five games entering tonight's home game against South Carolina (12-12, 4-6 in SEC). It's not exactly do or die time just yet, but the Gators certainly need a win tonight to improve their chances of making the NCAA Tournament.
A few pregame notes: Nick Calathes is just one of two players in the country averaging 15 points, five rebounds and six assists per game...Florida is 10-0 when hitting 40 percent or better from three-point range. The Gators have made just 22 percent of their three-point attempts in their seven losses...Marreese Speights has drawn a team-high 12 charges this season...Calathes has 159 assists, just 32 shy of breaking the school record of 190 by Ronnie Montgomery (1987-88).
F Dominique Archie 6-7 11.0 ppg
F Dwayne Day 6-5 5.3 ppg
F Evaldes Baniulis 6-7 4.9 ppg
G Devan Downey 5-9 19.8 ppg
G Zam Fredrick 6-0 15.4 ppg
F Dan Werner 6-7 8.9 ppg
C Marreese Speights 6-10 13.8 ppg
G Walter Hodge 6-0 10.3 ppg
G Nick Calathes 6-5 15.2 ppg
G Jai Lucas 5-11 9.1 ppg