Gators face South Carolina in crucial SEC game tonight
The Florida basketball team will play at South Carolina tonight in a key game for the Gators and their efforts to continue to improve their NCAA resume.
Florida (17-6, 6-3) is in all too familiar territory right now. It is the third consecutive year the Gators have hit the midway point of the conference season at 6-3, but the past two years Florida faltered down the stretch and eventually ended up in the NIT.
A road win tonight over a team that has proved to be the Gators' nemesis in recent years, would go a long way in proving what the players have been saying all season. This is a different team than those most recent ones that folded when it counted most.
"I think the way we've won games this year shows how good our team is, and that we're a different team,'' junior Chandler Parsons said. "We don’t have to make shots to win, we can play defense, we can go inside, we can go outside. Some guys are not always going to have a perfect game every night, they are going to not shoot the ball well. But we are a really good team this year, all around.'
The Gators have won this year with two buzzer-beaters, some defensive- oriented games and some games where guard Erving Walker was on fire.
But tonight the Gators will face a Gamecocks (13-9, 4-4) team hoping to avenge a last-second, two point loss in Gainesville earlier this year.
Florida has won the last two meetings against South Carolina and 20 of the last 24 in the series, but based on recent history, UF coach Billy Donovan knows winning tonight won’t be easy.
“We’ve had some challenging games for both us and South Carolina in this series the last few years, so it will come down to the wire,’’ he said. “I’m not quite sure what the future will hold for us, but just looking at past games, I think you can say both teams have played each other very well. We’re going on the road and we’re coming off an emotional win. South Carolina is coming off a loss against Tennessee and we can fully expect that we’ll get their best performance on Wednesday. It’ll be an unbelievable challenge.’’
South Carolina guard Devan Downey is the SEC's leading scorer, but is hampered by an ankle injury he suffered in practice this week. The Gators still expect a challenge from the guy who put up 36 on them in their previous meeting, despite being double-teamed most of the game.
"He's half of their offense, probably more than half, so we're expecting him to shoot a lot of shots,'' Walker said. "I'd say at least once every other (possession). He's a good player, so he's going to make some of those shots.''