Florida coach Mike White is the first to say that his Gators are not a great defensive basketball team. They aren’t a great rebounding team, or the toughest team, he’ll acknowledge.
But they were Saturday.
The Gators delivered one of their best defensive performances of the season, building a 21-point halftime lead while rolling to a 65-41 win over South Carolina in Columbia, S.C.
That was a season-low scoring output for the Gamecocks (13-12, 4-8 SEC), who shot just 27.8 percent for the game (including 2 of 13 from 3-point range).
South Carolina had won the teams’ first meeting, 77-72 in Gainesville back on Jan. 24, but the Gamecocks have now lost five straight since.
Florida (17-8, 8-4) , meanwhile, is going in the opposite direction again, winning two straight after dropping three consecutive conference games. And this marked the team’s most lopsided SEC win of the season.
Point guard Chris Chiozza led the Gators with 12 points and 7 rebounds and guard Jalen Hudson added 12 points and 5 boards. Collectively, the Gators tied a season high with 10 blocks and finished with an incredible 46-24 rebounding advantage. This after being outrebounded in five of their last six games.
The game was tied 5-5 when Florida went on an 16-2 run to build a comfortable lead it wouldn’t relinquish.
Freshman guard Deaundrae Ballard sparked that first-half run with 4 straight points, and Chiozza pushed the early lead to 21-7 on a fastbreak layup after Hudson forced a turnover.
The Gators went into halftime up 41-20 and never let the game get closer than 17 points the rest of the way.
Florida got nice contributions from the bench Saturday, with freshman guard Mike Okauru scoring 8 points, Ballard chipping in 6 points and redshirt freshman forward Dontay Bassett adding 4 points and 7 rebounds.
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