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Florida 65, South Carolina 41: Gators wring out Gamecocks in Columbia

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As good a half as Florida has played, and about as good a defensive game as Florida can play.

NCAA Basketball: Florida at South Carolina Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

On Saturday, the Florida Gators entered Colonial Life Arena having lost four of five to its tenants.

After the Gators’ 65-41 win over South Carolina, the Gamecocks might want to check the name on the lease.

Florida raced out to 5-0, 16-7, and 30-16 leads before establishing its final 41-20 advantage at the half, then kept up a level of defensive intensity that it has rarely evinced in the 2017-18 season for almost the full 40 minutes of play. The Gators were led by Chris Chiozza and Egor Koulechov, whose 12 points each led all scorers, and got six or more points from six separate scorers and four or more from eight players.

And Florida utterly suffocated a South Carolina team that is known for its own skill at strangulation. The Gamecocks shot just 28 percent from the field, and just over 15 percent from three.

Chris Silva’s 10 points — which led Carolina — came on 12 shots, and with just three free throws, as Florida smothered the big man and the Gamecocks’ drivers, racking up 10 blocks.

The Gators also feasted on the glass, tallying 46 rebounds to Carolina’s 24, and snagging 11 offensive boards to the Gamecocks’ 18 defensive rebounds.

And Florida’s scoring efforts came largely without the benefit of the three, as the Gators drove and drove, unhampered by making just four of 13 treys.

About the only things that went wrong for Florida? A flurry of elbows and arms to players’ faces, most of them accidental, and a relatively quiet second half from the field in which the Gators scored just 24 points — and still expanded their lead by three points, thanks to defensive effort that never flagged.

This was a win the Gators had to have, given how damaging a second loss to the listless Gamecocks would be to Florida’s NCAA Tournament standing.

They played like it.

May they remember they can and should do so in other contests beyond this day.