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South Carolina 72, Florida 66: Gators go cold as Gamecocks snap winning streak

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A poor performance from the floor doomed the Gators to defeat.

NCAA Basketball: South Carolina at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The Florida Gators trailed by 10 early on and by multiple possessions at multiple junctures in the second half, only to rally back to lead the lowly South Carolina Gamecocks on Wednesday.

But Frank Martin’s squad had one more run in them than the Gators did — and used it late to consign Florida to a frustrating 72-66 defeat.

A.J. Lawson’s 22 points led all scorers, but South Carolina’s punishment of poor boxouts on Florida’s part — mostly done without Lawson factoring in — helped the Gamecocks close on a 13-1 run that erased a six-point Florida lead in the late moments and give them just their third SEC win on the season.

Poor shooting by Florida was an accomplice to the bad boxing out, too: The Gators shot just 41 percent from the field and 29 percent from three, and made just nine of 15 free throws. Noah Locke and Tre Mann combined for 32 points, but Mann’s 17 took 16 attempts; a rare cold night from Colin Castleton, on which he made just four of 12 attempts, helped dull his effectiveness as a defender (seven blocks) and squander a fine night from Omar Payne, who had 10 points by virtue of making all five of his shots.

Florida’s bench barely contributing on the floor also contributed to the loss. The Gators got seven points — six from Anthony Duruji, one from Scottie Lewis — from their reserves, while South Carolina got 21.

And the upshot of the upset is that Florida’s NCAA Tournament standing is significantly damaged by one of its worst losses, and its chances of making a real run at Alabama’s perch atop the SEC are slim to none.

This was a bad loss, and a bummer of one. The good news is that the Gators have no one to blame but themselves — but the bad news is that making shots and a making more of an effort to box out were things they could have done in this game.