Gators go flat, Gamecocks shine in Elite Eight dogfight: Seven things to know as Florida’s season ends

By Adam Silverstein
March 26, 2017
Gators go flat, Gamecocks shine in Elite Eight dogfight: Seven things to know as Florida’s season ends

Image Credit: ESPN Images

Four-seed Florida Gators basketball (27-9) saw its season come to an end on Sunday afternoon at Madison Square Garden in New York, New York, as it got completely outplayed in the second half by the seven-seed South Carolina Gamecocks (26-10). Florida fell 77-70 in the Elite Eight of the 2017 NCAA Tournament as South Carolina made history by advancing to the Final Four. breaks down the team’s devastating loss below.

It was over when … South Carolina pieced together a 9-4 scoring stretch to go up 70-65 with one minute to play. Five of those points came on free throws, and the Gamecocks benefited from those nearly the entire second half as the Gators put them in the bonus with 14:53 to play. Trailing by four with 50.4 seconds left, Florida looked to get the ball back as South Carolina traveled while sailing a Hail Mary pass from one baseline to the other, but the walk was not called and USC wound up with two points from free throws instead.

The referees called four fouls on the Gators on a single possession early in the second half, giving Florida seven fouls in 5:07. UF did not enter the bonus itself until there was 6:47 left to play. But that’s not all that went wrong for the Gators, which missed 15 straight three-pointers to end the game and went 0-for-14 from long range in the second half. Florida also went 11-for-35 from the field in the latter 20 minutes and simply could not buy baskets or fouls down the stretch.

First half focus: Florida committed seven turnovers in the first 8:19 of the game and 11 overall in the opening 20 minutes, giving South Carolina plenty of opportunities to score quick points in transition, which it did to the tune of 13. The Gators negated that with some sharpshooting from beyond the arc, hitting 7-of-12 threes in the half including five straight bookended by senior forward Justin Leon. UF led by as many as eight and ended the half on an 8-3 stretch to take a 40-33 lead into the break despite USC scoring 22 of its 33 points in the paint.

Exceptional effort: Leon was really the only Gators player who was consistent in the game, scoring a team-high 18 points and adding six boards. But even Leon went cold, starting 3-for-4 from downtown and missing five straight threes to end the contest and finish 3-for-9. No one else really stepped up, which is a disappointment for Florida considering Leon is far from the team’s best player.

Significant stat: South Carolina absolutely dominated inside scoring with 65 of its 77 points coming either in the paint (42) or at the line (23 of 31). The Gamecocks also outrebounded the Gators 23-14 in the second half with many of those coming on the offensive glass for USC. This was the first time in the postseason that UF truly missed redshirt junior center John Egbunu, who was out the second half of the campaign with a torn ACL.

Odds and ends: UF played the game on a 37-hour turnaround, shortest of any team in the Elite Eight by four hours … Florida opened 7-for-11 from beyond the arc … South Carolina has outscored opponents by 64 points in the second half over four NCAA Tournament games … the Gators’ point guards did the best they could with nine assists but combined for seven turnovers, most coming in the first half … sophomore guard KeVaughn Allen regressed after a breakout performance, scoring 13 points on 4-of-12 shooting … junior F Devin Robinson, who dominated Florida’s first two games, was silent with five points on 1-of-5 shooting

What it means: Florida is now 5-4 all-time in the Elite Eight and falls to 1-4 in the round since 2011. The Gators also went 3-1 in head coach Mike White‘s first career NCAA Tournament appearance, winning two games over AP Top 25 opponents during their run. It was also just Florida’s 11th loss under White when scoring 70 points or more. For South Carolina, which had not won an NCAA Tournament game since 1973, the program won its first Elite Eight game and will participate in its first Final Four.

Up next: The Gators will lick their wounds and prepare for the 2017-18 season. Up first is the potential early departure of Robinson, who must test the NBA waters and see whether he believes he will be drafted due to his size and athleticism despite an inconsistent game. Leon, senior point guard Kasey Hill, graduate transfer G Canyon Barry and center Schuyler Rimmer are all guaranteed departures from the program. Florida will help Egbunu recover as quickly as possible and be able to utilize redshirt junior transfer G Jalen Hudson next season.


  1. .?? says:

    Great season for the Gators. Way better than I expected. End of the day, we got an elite 8 appearance and a buzzer beater we will never forget. We should all be proud of them.

  2. Marybeth Palmer says:

    This was a great season, hats off to the Coaches & the players. They over-achieved all expectations. Great Successful Season !!! This will give recruiting a boost ….
    The future is very bright for our Basketball Program !!!!!

  3. john yao says:

    John Egbunu was certainly missed in this game! We went further than I had expected without him! Great season Gator Bball team!

  4. Michael Jones says:

    South Carolina was the slightly better team yesterday. That said, it is frustrating how the deeper it goes into March Madness, the more the refs allow the games to become overly physical. That hurt us when bigger stronger SC was allowed to turn it into a football game. The no-call on the SC travel on the full court pass at the end of the game also sucked.

    Nonetheless, great season for our Gators. Really proud of how hard we fought, the class we played with and everything we achieved. Fun season for us fans. Coach White has some things to learn–and he will–but I love the guy.

    Go Gators!!!

  5. Dave Pugh says:

    I agree that the Gators went far beyond expectations, and should be proud of their season. Despite going very cold shooting in the second half, they fought well enough to stay in the game right up to the last minute or so. Execution was lacking a lot of times throughout the season, but effort and heart never were.

  6. 1974Gator says:

    I disagree about it being a great season. There were some very bright spots and the program does seem to be moving forward. It was also nice to see us regroup from our late season slump and make a deep March Madness run. That said, there were too many times this season, especially when we played top quality opponents and were leading by double digits, when we tried to play a slow down, half court game to milk the clock and lost our intensity. At these times, we consistently failed to score after letting the clock wind down to less then 10 seconds because there was no “go to” play or player. As a result, we allowed our opponent back into the game and, with few exceptions (Wisconsin), lost. That’s a coaching error. Donavan learned valuable lessons about game and team management early at UF and hopefully White will too. I like our chances next year but am wary of the rest of the SEC getting better. We have a lot of good, new coaches in the SEC. No rest for the weary.

    • MAR says:

      Whoa! Great season! Thank you Gators for the entertainment. Coach White is on the rise. Big shout out to Hill, Barry, Leon and Rimmer for your contributions. I am not weary one bit about the SEC stepping it up. I love it! Devin needs to come back and work on his consistency IMO. He is really good at disappearing and that needs to be fixed. If he and Egbunu return, next season could be special. Go Gators!!!

  7. drdan says:

    I’m just glad to see Hill depart. He lost 2 games this year because he could not finish at the rim and lost yesterday’s game with one last unforced error with a minute left

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