The last time the Gators visited South Carolina, the game ended with Chandler Parsons missing a free throw and South Carolina clearing the rebound for a last second open layup. Florida's loss snapped a ten game winning streak and was a sign of larger problems (defense, foul shooting) that sunk the Gators last season.
The Gators (17-6, 6-3 SEC) seem to be a better team this season, but have not been impressive on the road. The one-point wins at NC State and Alabama might have been dramatic, but it should have never gotten to that point. Florida played good for 30 minutes at Tennessee and the Gators did catch Arkansas before they caught fire. Tonight at South Carolina (13-9, 4-4), the Gators go into an environment just as dangerous as Vanderbilt or Tennessee.
Their last time out, the Gamecocks were manhandled by UT, as SC shot 28% and Devan Downey got no help. That has been a theme this season as Downey plays like the best player in the SEC, but has four guys watching and not participating. Downey scored 36 on January 23 against Florida and he could do it again. Downey is slowed by an ankle injury, but Downey at 60-70% is still 20+ points.
The Gators have won six of seven games, but are living dangerously; five of the games were decided by single digits. However, every time the Gators outrebound their opponent in the SEC, they win. Vernon Macklin and Alex Tyus are playing better, especially Tyus. But the rebounding edge comes from how active Parsons is. In SEC play, Parsons has pulled at least 8 rebounds in five games. He also has two double-doubles in the SEC (vs. SC, vs. Miss State). If Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker continue to struggle shooting, more weight falls on Parsons to score and of the front line to rebound. (Macklin still does not have a double digit rebounding game. Parsons and Tyus each have four.)
Every game is a "must win" but a victory tonight could eliminate South Carolina from the NCAA discussion and boost Florida's profile by winning in a gym that took down Kentucky.