The Gamecocks will leave Gainesville as victors today. Carolina defeated the Gators 72-69, improving its record to 13-4 / 2-1. Bruce Ellington had one of the best games of his short-but-illustrious career, scoring 23 on 8-15 shooting, including some key baskets and free throws in the final minutes. Erving Walker led the Gators with 17.
If beating Vanderbilt last weekend was a sign of what this team is capable of, this victory may be a sign that we're legitimately becoming a quality team. Beating good teams at home is one thing, but beating them on the road is a mark of distinction. It's what sets the good teams apart from the decent ones. And make no mistake, this appears to be a good Florida team we beat. The Gators were coming off of what appeared to be one of their own season-defining moments, a victory in Knoxville. Carolina won today, though, and with that win staked an early-season claim to being Kentucky's top challenger for SEC East supremacy.
It should be unsurprising, therefore, that the victory was one of Carolina's better performances this season. Some of the old problems were still there, but we did see Carolina make more of an effort to get the ball inside. Damontre Harris had one of his best moments in his young career with several inside scores in success during the Gamecocks' commanding late-first-half run. That in turn created more open shots on the perimeter, and our shooters responded with a pretty good performance from downtown. The Gamecocks also played well defensively, although we could have done a better job contesting threes down the stretch, which allowed Florida to make a close game out of what at one point had the look of a mild blowout.
A few more quick thoughts:
- Brace yourselves: our performance at the line played a huge role in our victory. When's the last time you saw me write that? Other than Lakeem Jackson, Carolina shot the ball very well from the stripe, while Florida's poor free-throw shooting really hurt it.
- Darrin Horn's choice to continue to give Harris more minutes and looks seems to be making a big difference for Carolina. Harris provides a legitimate threat on the block and he's an excellent defender. I expect that we'll continue to use him a lot against teams with imposing front lines.
That's a wrap on this one. Next up is a visit from Arkansas. Arkansas is a decent team this year, but they're a team we need to beat if we want to get our name in the NCAAs conversation. It's key that we not rest on our laurels and give the Hogs all we have.