COLUMBIA, S.C. – Markeshia Grant had 20 points, making five 3-pointers, and LaKeisha Sutton scored on a left-handed scoop shot in the final minute as No. 24 South Carolina held off Florida 62-58 on Sunday.
The Gamecocks (19-6, 8-4 Southeastern Conference) appeared to be in control much earlier, going up 45-35 against a Gators team struggling to make shots. But Florida found its offensive rhythm in the second half, tying the game at 54-54 on Deana Allen's jumper with 6:32 to go. That's when Grant hit her fifth and final 3-pointer to break the tie and put South Carolina ahead for good.
Florida was down 59-58 in the final minute before Sutton's one-armed reach-around shot with 32.9 seconds to go.
Jennifer George led the Gators (16-9, 6-6) with 17 points.
Florida's Lily Svete missed a tying 3-pointer from the left corner with 9 second and Lanita Bartley missed a short putback that could've drawn the Gators closer. Sutton made a foul shot with 1.4 seconds left for South Carolina's final margin.
Tina Roy had 11 points, Ieasia Walker 10 and Sutton nine for the Gamecocks, who got to 19 wins for the first time in coach Dawn Staley's four seasons.
George added 10 rebounds for Florida, which saw its three-game win streak snapped. Allen had 14 points and Bartley 10 points and eight rebounds for the Gators.
South Carolina returned to the rankings this week after a landmark stretch of four straight wins capped by its first-ever win on Rocky Top, 64-60, over Tennessee on Feb. 2.
The Gamecocks, though, came out as flat as they had all year this past Thursday, trailing most of the way in their most lopsided loss of the year, 68-47, at Arkansas. Whatever coach Dawn Staley said to her Gamecocks the past couple of practices seemed to work.
South Carolina and Grant came out fast and on fire right from the start against the Gators.
Grant had two 3-pointers and Aleighsa Welch, a freshman making her first career start, had a putback bucket as the Gamecocks opened a 14-7 lead.
Grant's third 3 of the half midway through the period increased South Carolina's edge to 26-16.
Still, the Gators wouldn't let the Gamecocks get too far ahead and cut the margin to 33-27 on Bartley's two foul shots with 4:10 to go in the opening half. That's when South Carolina freshman Tina Roy took over. She made two 3-pointers and scored eight of the team's last 10 points as the Gamecocks took a 43-33 lead into the break.
Florida finally got its attack going in the second half. Deanna Allen had four points, George two baskets and Jordan Jones a 3 to cut South Carolina's 10-point lead to 52-48.
Moments later, Allen's wide-open jumper tied the game at 54-all — and set things up for Grant's dramatic go-ahead three.
The Gators had their chances to pull ahead — Stewart was short on a drive to the basket that would've put Florida up for the first time since leading 2-0 — and were swept in a season series by the Gamecocks for the first time since South Carolina joined the SEC in 1992.
Both teams honored the late North Carolina State coach Kay Yow in the "Play4Kay" game. Florida wore pink uniforms and the Gamecocks pink socks. The coaching staffs wore plenty of pink and even the officials had pink whistles. The effort recognizes the legacy of Yow, who died of breast cancer in 2009.