In a game that begun about as awfully as you could ever expect, with the Gators down 30-13 early in the game, Mike White’s Gators showed the Gamecocks of South Carolina that they aren’t a team to give up.
But they couldn’t turn their comeback into a win. And so while their effort is to be commended, the Gators end the day the same way they began it- one or two big wins short of locking up a bid to the Big Dance.
After a first half littered with turnovers, missed shots, and overall unintelligent play, the Gators turned on the jets and launched a quick 22-0 run led by Devin Robinson and Dorian Finney-Smith. That dominant end of half run to even the score and eventually grab the lead re-proved the belief that this Florida team has promise, but the inexperience of both the coaching staff and the players tends to shine through during intense games. At halftime, both Egbunu and Hayes had 3 fouls, putting White in a difficult situation with two major contributors about to foul out before halftime.
As the Gators took the floor for the second half, the game started to get interesting. For almost the duration of the game, the teams were within one possession of the other. Florida’s Finney-Smith and South Carolina’s Michael Carrera both took turns going back and forth from the three-point line. But the outside shooting battle was outshined by the rim rocking alley-oop Devin Robinson (the REAL D-Rob) threw down. Unfortunately, that was one of only a few inside shots the Gators were able to make, and it seemed as if Florida got a little too complacent after coming back from that 17-point early in the game.
A tie game with under a minute to go turned into overtime when each team botched their end of game opportunities in succession. That’s when Carrera took over, hitting the go ahead and eventual winning free throws to give the Gamecocks their first win over Florida in five years.
With a heartbreaking late loss on the road like this, it is important to analyze more than just the ‘L’ on the scorecard; there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to the Gator’s performance against South Carolina. One of Florida’s biggest issues this season has been success on the road. With a new head coach for the first time in almost two decades, you cannot expect to travel to hostile territory and come away victorious every game, but it is apparent that this team is beginning to learn each other, learn their coach, and learn the system that he is trying to implement within Gator basketball. Every week, we see little improvements within the team and the coaching scheme, which shows that White is beginning to take control of the team and push it in the right direction.
The Gators will travel back to Gainesville with their tenth loss of the season at the hands of South Carolina. But the bigger picture is this: every game, this team shows promise that one day Florida basketball will be a name to be reckoned with once again (maybe sooner than we think).