Sunday, December 17, 2017
Sports

Florida Gators focus on South Carolina

GAINESVILLE

It didn't take South Carolina's upset victory at then-No. 17 Kentucky on Saturday to get Florida's attention focused on the Gamecocks.

Even if South Carolina, which had won just 10 games at the time, had lost, the Gamecocks would still have had the Gators' undivided attention.

"We knew they were a good team from the first time we played them," senior F Casey Prather said. "We don't go into games taking teams lightly. We already were kind of aware of it whether they beat Kentucky or not."

With two regular-season games remaining and a chance to put themselves in the SEC history books, the Gators' focus has narrowed even more sharply heading into this week.

With a win over South Carolina tonight, Florida would become just the fourth team in SEC history to win 17 league games, joining the 1970 and 1986 Kentucky teams and the 1981 LSU team. The Tigers are the only team to ever hold a 17-0 SEC record.

Wins over South Carolina and Saturday against Kentucky would make the Gators the only team to ever go 18-0 in the SEC.

Which brings us back to that focus. Whether it was postgame following Saturday's win over LSU, or at Monday's media session, it's the word that keeps coming back. The four seniors who have made three NCAA Elite Eight appearances say they have too many goals remaining to slip up now.

"I'm really just focused on this game (tonight), and hopefully going into the history books as a team that can go 18-0 in conference," senior C Patric Young said. "That's our goal right now, so we're just worried about South Carolina right now and just trying to make this the best year possible with this team we have, with this team that will never be together again ever."

"We know what we want and that is to achieve greatness," senior G Scottie Wilbekin said. "We can't do that if we start looking too far ahead, not focusing on just what's next. So all that's important for us right now is the next game."

RUSH, PART II?: On Monday, the SEC announced it has fined South Carolina $25,000 for allowing its fans to rush the court following the Kentucky win, which is a violation of league policy. If the Gamecocks can upset No. 1, it raises the question: Will South Carolina allow it to happen again, facing a $50,000 fine?

South Carolina president Harris Pastides told the Daily Gamecock: "Once I realized I was paying (the fine) anyway, I ran down. … I enjoyed every dollar."

Coach Frank Martin seems to think a chance to storm against Florida is a longshot.

"We're getting ready here to host the No. 1 team in the country," Martin said. "I'm not just a friend of Billy's (Donovan, the UF coach), I'm a fan, and have unbelievable respect for him and his program. We're going to have to play the best game that we've played in my time here at the University of South Carolina to have a chance."

HAEGER HONORED: Florida junior RHP/1B Lauren Haeger was named SEC softball player of the week Monday for helping lead the Gators to five wins at the Diamond 9 Citrus Classic this past weekend. It is the third time this season Haeger has been honored. She hit .412 with four home runs, seven runs scored and 11 RBIs in wins over No. 4 Oregon, Fordham, Ohio State, Maryland and Radford.

Antonya English can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @TBTimes_Gators.

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