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(Wednesday, January 8th)
Final Score: (10) Florida 74, South Carolina 58
Gainesville, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Scottie Wilbekin scored a game-high 17 points as 10th-ranked Florida began its SEC schedule with a 74-58 romp over South Carolina at the O'Connell Center.
The Gators (12-2, 1-0 SEC) led from start to finish and shot 57.8 percent from the field en route to a school-record tying 24th consecutive home victory. Patric Young hit on 6-of-7 attempts and Casey Prather went 5-of-5, with both Florida players finishing with 13 points.
South Carolina (7-7, 0-1), which entered the contest on a season-high four- game win streak, received 12 points from Tyrone Johnson and 10 apiece from Brenton Williams and Sindarius Thornwell in the loss.
The Gators dominated the game's early stages, roaring out to a 14-1 lead six minutes in and forcing eight South Carolina turnovers before the Gamecocks made their first field goal, a Mindaugas Kacinas jumper that came nearly midway through the first half.
"Our young kids were tight and nervous," Gamecocks head coach Frank Martin remarked. "My biggest concern going into this game was that first five or six minutes. Exactly what I was hoping didn't happen happened."
Florida's advantage swelled to 28-10 when Prather threw down a dunk and later fed Young for a layup 6:05 prior to the intermission. South Carolina followed with an 11-4 run to grab some momentum, and went into the break down 34-21 after the Gators' Kasey Hill sank two free throws to close out the period.
The Gamecocks continued to whittle down the deficit following the stoppage, pulling within 43-35 on Desmond Ringer's three-point play with just under 14 minutes left.
"I don't know what it is, but we have a very, very hard time sustaining intensity," said Gators head coach Billy Donovan. "We inevitably let teams get back in games and we're going to have to do something to get that resolved and corrected. I don't know what the solution is, but it's starting to become a theme and I'm starting to get irritated by it."
Florida did ease Donovan's concerns by stringing together a 9-2 spurt, however, that helped thwart any upset hopes.
Wilbekin began the burst with a 3-pointer and Dorian Finney-Smith capped it with a pair of buckets, the last a dunk off a Prather give that made the score 52-37 with 11:37 to play.
An 11-0 Florida run shortly afterward sealed the outcome, with Michael Frazier's jumper with seven minutes remaining lengthening the Gators' lead to 63-42.
Florida previously won 24 straight home games from March 1, 2006-Nov. 20, 2007. The Gators haven't lost at the O'Connell Center since a 74-59 setback to Kentucky on Mar. 4, 2012 ... Florida improved to 9-0 in SEC openers held in Gainesville under Donovan and 12-3 in its last 15 matchups with the Gamecocks, including victories in five straight meetings ... South Carolina finished with 21 turnovers that the Gators converted into 22 points.
01/08 23:29:53 ET
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