GAINESVILLE, Fla. — As the two teammates walked down a back hallway here late Tuesday night, Dominique Archie draped his arm around Devan Downey’s shoulder. Downey grimaced and punched his left hand in frustration.
His thoughts may have been racing back to the final minute, when his late flurry of baskets still left his South Carolina short in a 97-93 loss at Florida.
Downey, who finished with 33 points, also could have been thinking of his own defensive effort, which he called “poor” and the ultimate reason for defeat.
Or it could have been thinking about the fact that his Gamecocks had an easier time hitting contested 3-pointers than wide-open free throws.
There was a lot to digest.
“I’ll take full responsibility,” Downey said, shrugging off the 11 points he scored in the final minute. “Defensive effort tonight was clearly my fault, because I didn’t set the tone defensively like I have been doing the last few games.”
The Gamecocks (16-5) saw a four-game SEC win streak snapped.
But in a foul-plagued game, free throws loomed large for the Gamecocks.
They were 10-for-22 from the line, and missed three one-and-ones in a row midway through the second half, when the game was in the balance.
“I don’t think that’s near as important as how many more they shot than us,” USC coach Darrin Horn said.
Florida went 31-for-40 from the line.
“Nick Calathes is apparently awesome at drawing fouls for a guy that doesn’t drive by people,” said Horn, referring to Florida’s star point guard. “He shot 16 (free throws) tonight. So I need to see the film to see if that’s us out of position or he’s just really, really good at that.”
Free throw shooting has been an issue lately for USC, but it had not cost them a game. It may have Tuesday.
At one point, after missing the first of two free throws, Archie shook his head and sighed. He hit the next one, but it was one of the few hit team made on this night. Archie finished 6-for-12.
“Just one of those days. Whenever you shoot the ball, it’s a 50-50 chance of going in,” Archie said. “It was a huge key to our loss, but our defensive commitment and effort was just awful.”
For 31 minutes, this game was as competitive as the matchup two weeks ago. There were 16 lead changes and 17 ties Tuesday night.
But Florida (19-4, 6-2) started pulling away with 8:55 remaining. That was when Downey picked up his fourth foul, and though he spent a little more than two minutes on the bench, that was enough for Florida to take a seven-point lead.
Downey had one more big run in him. His running layup with 30.4 seconds to go made it a four-point game, and his 3-pointer with 24.3 seconds remaining shaved the deficit to three.
After Calathes hit two free throws, Downey nailed another long 3.
USC gave Florida a lot of trouble on the ensuing inbounds, but a foul was called. Florida’s Walter Hodge, the team’s lone senior, nailed both free throws.
Downey tried another 3, but this one missed.
“Those shots he was making, they were just inside,” Florida forward Chandler Parsons said.
Downey wasn’t in the mood to talk about it.
“The final minute really don’t matter. We lost,” he said.
Reach Emerson at (803) 771-8676.
3-pointers: USC 11-22 (Downey 7-9, Fredrick 3-5, Baniulis 1-4, Archie 0-2, Raley-Ross 0-2). Florida 6-16 (Walker 3-5, Hodge 1-1, Calathes 1-4, Parsons 1-5, Werner 0-1). Turnovers: USC 17, Florida 10. Officials: Stuart, Smith, Hess. A: 11,152.