GAINESVILLE — The Florida Gators are still waiting on a serious challenge in SEC play, but until it comes, they'll gladly take the double-digit victories. In fact, it seems to be their ultimate goal right now.
The No. 4 Gators extended their winning streak to nine games and remained undefeated in conference play with a 75-36 victory over South Carolina on Wednesday in front of 10,533 at the O'Connell Center. It was the largest margin of victory over the Gamecocks (12-8, 2-5 SEC) in series history. The 36 points were the second-fewest Florida has allowed this season.
The Gators (17-2, 7-0) continue to dominate on defense, as no SEC team has scored more than 52 against Florida this season.
"It's working out great for us," junior guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "We're just going to keep playing, and if that's the outcome, then we're happy with that. We'll get challenges when a team challenges us. We're just going to keep playing our hardest every game."
Florida led 33-10 at halftime then opened the second half by going 5-for-5, including three 3-pointers, to take a 46-13 lead with 16:46 left.
The Gators' press forced the Gamecocks into 11 first-half turnovers. South Carolina didn't score its first basket until the 13:41 mark and shot 14.3 percent from the field in the half to tie a school record for worst shooting percentage in a half in SEC play.
"They're real good," first-year South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "The more I studied them on tape, the more I realized there's a reason they've played as well as they have this year. When they play here in this building, they take it to even another level."
The Gators became the third team in the past 25 years to win their first seven conference games by 15 or more points, after Belmont (eight in 2010-11) and UNLV (12 in 1990-91).
At the game's end, UF coach Billy Donovan exchanged a lengthy handshake and conversation with Martin.
"I love Frank, he's a close friend and I've developed a really, really good relationship with him," Donovan said. "I think he's done a great job with his team because they played really, really hard. … Obviously, I understand what he's going through. But he's a great guy and he gets it. He understands that for him, it's a process."
Antonya English can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.