The last time Florida was in Colonial Life Arena, Michael Frazier just about burned it down. Frazier sunk 11 threes, a new Florida record, and his 37 points helped Florida outscore the Gamecocks 43-20 after halftime in a 72-46 runaway.
This go-round, Florida might actually need him to be that hot ... and he's coming off the bench.
The Gators enter Wednesday's SEC opener in Columbia (7 p.m., SEC Network) off two consecutive losses, to Florida State and UConn, and, as has been par for the course in this exasperating season, will be missing a key contributor this evening. Jon Horford, suspended by Billy Donovan for "conduct detrimental to the team," along with walk-on Zach Hodskins, will not play, leaving the Gators with a grand total of zero players weighing more than Alex Murphy's 225 pounds. (Donovan termed the suspensions a "coaching decision," saying that they had "nothing to do with the university.)
And while Horford has struggled of late, he would've been a huge help against South Carolina's active front line. The Gamecocks have actually been better on defense than Florida has been this season, ranking sixth to Florida's ninth in adjusted defensive efficiency, and they sit in the top 15 in field goal percentages allowed on twos, three-point percentage allowed, and block percentage.
Towering Laimonas Chatkevicius does most of the rim protection, with aid from Demetrius Henry and undersized dynamo Michael Carrera, while a tall backcourt of Tyrone Johnson, Duane Notice, and Sindarius Thornwell — "Sin," of course — has helped keep other teams from beating Carolina from the perimeter. Frazier, who sounds hungry and frustrated by a season that has been long on arduousness and light on achievement, is going to have a tougher time getting loose tonight.
But Carolina's offense has been slightly worse than the struggling Gators' attack has, and a lack of shooting — especially from the outside — is to blame. Notice is the only 'Cock who has taken at least 10 threes and made better than one in three, and Thornwell has been atrocious from distance, making just 10 of 47 threes; for perspective, Will Yeguete wasn't far from that percentage in 2013-14, and Kasey Hill is actually shooting at a better clip this season.
The Gamecocks also cough up the ball on more than a fifth of their possessions, so Hill and Chris Chiozza could feast on that deficiency and in transition.
Florida desperately needs a win away from home — the Gators have just one on the year, and it came in the Bahamas against lowly UAB — and a confidence booster, but the Gamecocks, just one spot behind the Gators in KenPom (Florida is No. 24, South Carolina No. 25), will present a far stiffer test than they did last season.
And the Gators have folded when facing resistance quite often this year.