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GAINESVILLE, Fla. – South Carolina reached a new low Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks scored 36 points in a lopsided loss at No. 4 Florida, breaking the school record for fewest points in Southeastern Conference play. The previous mark was 40 points against Kentucky in 1999.
This one was ugly from the start.
South Carolina had three baskets and 11 turnovers at halftime. Guards Bruce Ellington and Eric Smith might as well have been no-shows. And nothing coach Frank Martin did made a difference.
The result was a 75-36 loss, the team's fifth in its last seven games.
"(The Gators did) the same thing they've done to every opponent this year," Martin said. "They're rock solid; they're sound. What allows them to be so good defensively is how good they are on offense. They rarely take a bad shot. They rarely turn it over. If you try to guard them, they don't panic. They rebound it so their defense is always where it belongs."
Michael Carrera led South Carolina (12-8, 2-5 SEC) with 13 points and nine rebounds. None of his teammates reached double figures.
Ellington finished with seven points on 2-of-9 shooting. Smith had five points on 2-of-8 shooting. They combined for three assists and 10 turnovers.
"Coach sat everyone down and said we lost by a pretty good margin," guard Lakeem Jackson said. "He said to take it like a man and learn from it so the next time we play them we know how to handle things."
The Gators (17-2, 7-0) have enjoyed seven blowouts in as many conference games. They won the first six by an average of 26.5 points. They had that covered early in the second half.
"It's fun," Florida guard Scottie Wilbekin said. "It's working out great for us, and we're just going to keep playing. And if that's the outcome, we're happy with that."
The Gators, who won their ninth game in a row, led 33-10 at halftime and made their first five shots after the break. They opened a 31-point lead that seemingly couldn't get any more lopsided.
Then it did.
Florida pulled ahead 55-15 on Wilbekin's floater in the lane with 12:32 remaining, sending the happy home crowd to the exits even earlier than usual this season.
The Gamecocks meanwhile, seemed dazed on the floor and the bench.
"Florida had more experience than us and we played a bad game," Carrera said.
Pat Young opened the second half by hitting a left-handed hook shot. Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario followed with consecutive 3-pointers. Young hit a jumper — yes, a rare jumper for the 6-foot-9 center — and Boynton drained another 3 that pushed the lead to 46-13.
That second-half spurt was exactly what coach Billy Donovan wanted when he challenged his players in the locker room.
"When you're up by a large margin, that does not give you the right not to do your job," Donovan said. "The scoreboard's got nothing to do with responsibility on the court, and they've done a pretty good of playing every possession."
Florida overwhelmed South Carolina from the opening tip, doing just about everything right.
It had to ease Donovan's mind some. After all, the Gators came into the game with their highest ranking since the 2006-07 season, and Donovan expressed concern earlier in this week when he talked about his players needing to "drive our car with two hands on the wheel inside the lane and looking at what's in front."
The Gators had no issues staying focused.
In fact, they probably could have been stopped for speeding.
Florida led 11-2 in the first 6 minutes of the game, pulled ahead 21-4 at the halfway point of the first half and probably could have named their score after that.
The Gators finished the night shooting 53 percent from the field, made 12 of 21 shots from 3-point range and dominated the glass.
"The more you win like this, the more you show what you're capable of and the more responsibility you have because you're playing at a certain level and you've shown a certain level," Donovan said. "What you want to try to do as a basketball team is not go backwards a step but to continue to grow and get better and improve. And understand that that's the No. 1 priority — getting better. We've got to get better. All this other stuff doesn't mean anything."