Chris Silva made big plays in the final minutes of an 18-point, 12-rebound performance, and South Carolina cooled off No. 20 Florida with a 77-72 win Wednesday at Exactech Arena in Gainesville, Fla.
Silva had a two-handed power dunk and hit a face-up jumper in the final four minutes to help the Gamecocks (13-7, 4-4 Southeastern Conference) hold off the Gators, who had won eight of their previous nine.
Wesley Myers scored 22 points and hit five of South Carolina’s 11 3-pointers in the rematch of last season’s Elite 8 showdown between the SEC rivals. The Gamecocks got the best of the Gators in that one, too, and reached the program’s first Final Four. It has been an up-and-down follow-up season for Frank Martin’s club, but Tuesday was one of the Gamecocks’ biggest wins.
Egor Koulechov and Jalen Hudson each had 16 points, and KeVaughn Allen finished with 15 points for the Gators (14-6, 6-2 SEC).
The teams exchanged runs in the first half. Hudson hit a 3-pointer that gave Florida a 21-10 edge at the 11-minute mark. The Gamecocks battled back from beyond the arc. Justin Minaya hit a 3-pointer to tie the score 32-32 with three minutes left before halftime.
The Gamecocks took a 39-37 lead into intermission, but it wouldn’t last long.
Florida opened the second half with an 11-0 run to take 48-39 lead. Allen hit two early threes to fuel the Gators’ spurt.
South Carolina would not go away, though. Myers knocked down a 3-pointer to jumpstart the Gamecocks’ comeback. The visitors regained the lead midway through the second half on a jumper from Maik Kotsar and then had all the momentum when Silva threw down his highlight dunk to give the Gamecocks a five-point lead with 3:30 to play.
South Carolina hosts No. 14 Texas Tech on Saturday, as part of the Big 12/SEC Challenge. The Gators will host Baylor on Saturday in the midseason, non-conference event.
—Field Level Media