The South Carolina Gamecocks entered the SEC portion of their schedule after a dismal December, with their only win against an outmatched Division II opponent and two injured starters still recovering on the bench. Having to hit the road to face the Florida Gators under such circumstances did not exactly inspire confidence, but the Gamecocks capped an unbelievable comeback with Chris Silva’s dunk in the final seconds to come away with a 71-69 victory in Gainesville on Saturday night.
The Gators got out to a hot 11-4 start behind some early 3-point shooting, but the Gamecocks were quick to counter with a couple triples of their own, keyed in part by Hassani Gravett’s effort off the bench. But turnovers bedeviled South Carolina, and it allowed Florida to build a 12-point advantage. The Gamecocks got back off the mat with a 6-0 run to close the first half, cutting into the Gators’ lead and taking a manageable 36-32 deficit to the locker room.
The Gamecocks’ momentum fizzled at the start of the second half, though, as Florida went back to work padding its lead and eventually built another double-digit cushion. But South Carolina chipped away at the deficit — helped by Silva’s 18 points, all of which he scored in the second period, Gravett’s team-high 22 points, and a couple clutch plays from Keyshawn Bryant — and suddenly found themselves in a tie ball game with minutes to go. From there, the teams traded buckets and free throws, and knotted up at 69, the Gamecocks had the inbound with 3.5 seconds left.
That’s when Felipe Haase went for the home run ball and hurled it down the court to a surprisingly open Silva, who slammed it home for the victory:
Not the first time these two programs have played in a last-second thriller, and if history is any indication, it won’t be the last. Talk about an incredible way to open conference play for a Gamecocks squad that really struggled in the latter portion of 2018.
Up next, South Carolina (6-7, 1-0 SEC) faces No. 17 Mississippi State in Columbia on Tuesday.