Frank Martin scratched his chin and stared straight ahead. After spending the majority of the first half stomping along the sideline, making rapid substitutions and sarcastically clapping at officials, the South Carolina coach, perhaps, lacked the energy to react when Florida’s Jalen Hudson hit a baseline jumper before the buzzer.
The Gamecocks were down 21 points.
USC lost its fifth consecutive game Saturday before a crowd of 14,629 at Colonial Life Arena. Martin watched the second half of the Gators’ 65-41 win with his jacket off and tie loosened.
South Carolina (13-12, 4-8 SEC) hasn’t won since Jan. 24 in Gainesville. Saturday’s rematch made the first Gators-Gamecocks game seem like decades ago. Florida (17-8, 8-4) dominated about every aspect of the matchup. It blocked 10 of USC’s shots, grabbed 22 more rebounds and made nine more field goals.
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“I want to apologize to our fans,” Martin said. “When I got hired on March 27, 2012, I didn’t say we were winning an SEC championship, I didn’t say we were going to a Final Four. I said that our team would be the hardest playing team, most disciplined, toughest bunch of you-know-whats that would take the court every time we play.
“And, obviously, because of the efforts of the ones that came before, our fans have bought in and they’re here for us and helping us. And I have not kept my word with the way we played today.
“I’m a lot of things, and the one thing I’m not is a liar.”
The 41 points are the fewest by the Gamecocks since Florida beat them 75-36 on Jan. 30, 2013.
With 6:08 remaining in the first half, Martin drew his first technical of the season. Coming back down the floor following a Chris Silva bucket, official Lee Cassell threw a cross-court T Martin’s way. It was enough to light a small spark under the Gamecocks. They traded baskets with the Gators for the next minute – including an “and-1” layup from Silva – until Florida closed the half on a 14-4 run.
“That got me hyped,” Silva said of Martin’s tech, “but a couple minutes later he took me out because I had three fouls. That’s the only thing I can do, man. When I see him fighting for me like that, I got to give him something back.”
Chris Chiozza, who was out-dueled by Wes Myers two weeks ago, guided the Gators with 12 points, seven rebounds and three assists. UF shot 46 percent from the floor.
Myers, who once dropped 22 points on the Gators, wasn’t USC’s starting point guard for a second consecutive game. The senior didn’t score in 20 minutes.
The Gamecocks, at 27.8 percent, failed to make 30 percent of their field goals for the fourth time this season.
“That was our best performance of the year,” said UF coach Mike White. “I believe that, I told Frank that. To come here and defend these guys at the clip that we did and rebound like we did against this program, period, was really, really good for us.”
Silva, another hero in Gainesville, was neutralized early on Saturday. The 6-foot-9 forward had three of his first five shots blocked, including a Keith Stone swat of a dunk attempt at the 12:11 mark. Silva finished with 10 points on 4 of 12 shooting.
Frank Booker led Carolina with 17 points. The Gamecocks never led and trailed by as many as 27.
“This wasn’t an X and O problem today,” Martin said. “We got beat to everything. We got beat to loose balls. We got out-disciplined. I’ve never coached a team that got beat by 20-something on the glass. They blocked 10 of our shots.
“Point blank, we had no fight.”
USC, on its first five-game skid since January 2014, next travels to Tennessee on Tuesday.
FLORIDA (17-8): Stone 0-2 3-3 3, Hayes 2-2 2-6 6, Chiozza 5-7 2-2 12, Koulechov 4-7 0-0 9, Hudson 5-12 1-1 12, Bassett 2-5 0-0 4, Gak 0-0 1-2 1, Ballard 2-3 2-2 6, Okauru 3-8 0-0 8, Allen 1-6 2-2 4. Totals 24-52 13-18 65.
SOUTH CAROLINA (13-12): Minaya 1-3 0-0 2, Silva 4-12 2-3 10, Kotsar 2-10 1-2 5, Hinson 0-1 0-0 0, Gravett 1-3 0-0 2, Gueye 0-0 0-0 0, Haase 1-3 0-0 2, Cudd 0-0 3-6 3, Beatty 0-3 0-0 0, Booker 6-13 3-4 17, Myers 0-4 0-0 0, Holden 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 15-54 9-15 41.
Halftime—Florida 41-20. 3-Point Goals—Florida 4-13 (Okauru 2-4, Koulechov 1-1, Hudson 1-4, Chiozza 0-1, Allen 0-3), South Carolina 2-13 (Booker 2-7, Minaya 0-1, Beatty 0-1, Gravett 0-1, Kotsar 0-3). Fouled Out—None. Rebounds—Florida 43 (Bassett, Chiozza, Koulechov 7), South Carolina 23 (Silva, Kotsar 5). Assists—Florida 9 (Allen, Chiozza 3), South Carolina 7 (Minaya, Gravett 2). Total Fouls—Florida 16, South Carolina 16. Technicals—South Carolina coach Frank Martin. A—14,629 (18,000).