Frank Martin doesn’t like to look at the past. There’s no point in it.
Although in this case, remembering what Florida’s Michael Frazier did to South Carolina the last time he was in Colonial Life Arena would have helped.
The Gators’ junior sharpshooter, who buried 11 3-pointers in a 72-46 drubbing in March, was left open far too many times on Wednesday and he made enough shots to snap the Gamecocks’ seven-game winning streak, 72-68. USC (9-4, 0-1 SEC) lost its conference opener for the fourth consecutive year and had its hallmark of nasty swarming defense thrown back in its face by the aggressive, physical, run-at-all-costs Gators.
“We got what we deserve,” Martin said. “Our disciplines, our disposition, our minds were never in a good place the last two days.”
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Lax ball-screen defense freed Frazier for looks, and, while he didn’t put on nearly the clinic he did in March, he did enough. He stuck daggers in the Gamecocks from the arc or the free-throw line as the Gators completed their rally.
“We just lost Frazier,” Ty Johnson said. “They did a good job penetrating the lane, making us rotate on defense and losing him.”
“I don’t know, man,” Frazier said with a broad grin. “I felt good at shootaround today, I felt good at warm-ups. I told one of my teammates, ‘Man I feel it again.’”
Florida (8-6, 1-0) pressed throughout the game and the Gamecocks never got a handle on how to beat it, although they took advantage of long stretches of Gator offensive ineptitude to take a 38-32 lead early into the second half. Florida began to heat up, though, and when Dorian Finney-Smith drained a 3 for a 41-40 lead, USC had few answers.
Sindarius Thornwell was in foul trouble and top scorer Duane Notice was shackled by the Gators’ defense, but freshman Marcus Stroman drove the lane and was fouled. His two free throws restored the Gamecocks’ lead, and when Justin McKie swished two free throws to take advantage of whistles, it was 44-41.
The game turned immediately after.
Despite USC knowing that the Gators had two players on the floor – freshman guard Chris Chiozza and walk-on Jacob Kurtz – that would not shoot, the Gamecocks collapsed on each as they drove the lane. That left Frazier wide-open for a dish and a 3, which he made.
USC missed on its end but play was stopped after Kurtz fell on the court. Following a review, officials charged Laimonas Chatkevicius with a flagrant foul for an elbow.
“I have no idea what (Chatkevicius is) thinking about on that play. Turned the whole game around,” Martin said. “(The official) said he threw an elbow and hit him in the face, and if that’s what he did, then it’s the right call.”
Kurtz hit two free throws, then the Gamecocks once again were victimized by a drive into the lane and quick pass to the wing. Finney-Smith smoked another 3, Notice missed his, then Frazier was left wide open in the corner.
Thornwell had to lunge at him and picked up his fourth foul. Frazier made two shots, the lead was 51-44 and the Gamecocks were cooked.
The Gamecocks hit three field goals in a nearly 16-minute stretch in the second half. Thornwell and Notice had five points each (they normally combine for 24). Only Johnson was in double figures (20).
Frazier, who had 37 in March, had 17, but he was making every shot Florida had to have. While the Gamecocks fought until the buzzer, two Mindaugas Kacinas 3-pointers and a Johnson 3-point play cutting the lead to two points with six seconds to go, USC had to foul, and Eli Carter calmly swished two free throws for the final margin.
Martin pointed out the obvious – his three tallest starters had five combined rebounds in 70 minutes. The Gamecocks didn’t control screens like they had been.
“I’ve never been around a team that got beat on the glass like we got beat on the glass today,” he declared.
But it was also a lack of focus that Martin saw coming. Everything was rosy for so long, and then came Wednesday.
“I told the guys, I said, ‘Listen, I don’t know if you guys have ever been in a fight, but when you box, when you go in to fight the champ, he’s going to punch you as hard as he can,’” Martin said. “And if you don’t fight back, he’s going to pummel you. We didn’t have the habits after the last couple of days to be able to sustain the punch that Florida threw at us today.”
Hill 2-5 5-7 9, Robinson 1-5 2-2 4, Finney-Smith 7-12 4-5 20, Chiozza 0-2 0-0 0, C. Walker 2-5 0-0 4, Carter 2-5 2-2 6, Murphy 2-5 0-0 4, Frazier II 4-7 6-7 17, Kurtz 1-3 6-7 8. Totals 21-49 25-30 72.
SOUTH CAROLINA (9-4)
Thornwell 1-4 2-2 5, Johnson 5-10 9-9 20, Notice 1-7 2-2 5, Chatkevicius 3-6 2-2 8, Henry 3-7 0-1 6, Stroman 2-5 3-5 7, McKie 1-2 4-4 6, Carrera 1-2 0-0 2, Kacinas 3-6 1-2 9. Totals 20-49 23-27 68.
Halftime_South Carolina 34-31. 3-Point Goals_Florida 5-19 (Frazier II 3-5, Finney-Smith 2-6, C. Walker 0-1, Robinson 0-2, Murphy 0-2, Carter 0-3), South Carolina 5-13 (Kacinas 2-4, Thornwell 1-2, Johnson 1-2, Notice 1-3, Chatkevicius 0-1, Stroman 0-1). Fouled Out_Chiozza, Hill, Thornwell. Rebounds_Florida 37 (Finney-Smith 7), South Carolina 23 (Johnson, Kacinas 5). Assists_Florida 14 (Carter, Kurtz 3), SouthCarolina 11 (Johnson, Stroman 3). Total Fouls_Florida 24, South Carolina 20. A_12,181
Alabama 1-0 11-3
Arkansas 1-0 12-2
Florida 1-0 8-6
Kentucky 1-0 14-0
Tennessee 1-0 9-4
Vanderbilt 1-0 11-3
LSU 0-0 11-2
Missouri 0-0 6-7
Auburn 0-1 8-6
Georgia 0-1 9-4
Mississippi State 0-1 7-7
Ole Miss 0-1 9-5
South Carolina 0-1 9-4
Texas A&M 0-1 9-4
Arkansas 79, Georgia 75
Kentucky 89, Ole Miss 86 (OT)
Vanderbilt 64, Auburn 52
Alabama 65, Texas A&M 44
Florida 72, South Carolina 68
Tennessee 61, Mississippi State 47
LSU at Missouri, 7 p.m.