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Gamecocks catch the Gators

Devan Downey drives around Florida's Kenny Boynton at the Colonial Life Arena.
Devan Downey drives around Florida's Kenny Boynton at the Colonial Life Arena.

Early in the second half, Darrin Horn gave Brandis Raley-Ross a warning: either start shooting the ball or have a seat on the bench.

Raley-Ross took it to heart, and the result was an impressive rally for the South Carolina men's basketball team.

The senior guard's second-half flurry of 3-pointers propelled the Gamecocks to a 77-71 victory against Florida on Wednesday night. The win kept USC (14-9, 5-4 SEC) alive in the Eastern Division. Florida (17-7, 6-4) entered having won six of its past seven.

"This one was huge for a lot of reasons," Horn said.

This rivalry has seen some classic moments lately. Last month, Florida won on a last-second 3-pointer by Chandler Parsons. And last year at Colonial Life Arena, Zam Fredrick beat the Gators on a buzzer-beating layup after a full-court pass from Mike Holmes.

There was no last-second drama this time.

Florida led most of the game and by as many as eight in the second half. But the Gators missed numerous chances to put USC away.

And then the Gamecocks pounced.

USC went on a 21-7 run to shift momentum. Raley-Ross was key, scoring 17 of his 20 points in the second half.

During the first media timeout of the second half, Horn pulled Raley-Ross aside.

"He was leading the nation in shot-fakes," Horn said. "I told him if he passed up another 3 he was coming out. To his credit, he stepped up and took - and made - a lot of big shots for us."

The Gamecocks needed that kind of production from their second-leading scorer. Devan Downey rolled his ankle in Monday's practice, and though he finished with 24 points, that was his SEC low this season.

Raley-Ross hit his first 3-pointer shortly after the talk with Horn -- and didn't let up. His third 3 cut Florida's lead to one with 9:22 left.

A minute later, Downey's jumper gave USC its first lead since early in the first half.

From there, the Gamecocks gradually pulled away. A 3-pointer by Ramon Galloway as the shot clock expired gave USC a four-point lead. Another 3 by Raley-Ross extend the advantage to 61-54 with 4:07 left.

Raley-Ross seemed surprised he had been so bashful in shooting.

"It hasn't happened in a while. Not since high school, I think," he said. "But it felt good, and I just made them down the stretch."

It also helped that the Gators foundered, hitting one field goal during one six-minute stretch. They struggled the whole game on offense, committing 20 turnovers and going 10-for-23 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, the Gamecocks hit their free throws, with Downey sinking 11 of 12.

Downey said he "definitely wasn't 100" percent and was in a walking boot after the game. The team said Downey will continue to wear the boot for precautionary reasons.

"My team carried me tonight," Downey said. "A whole lot of times people talk about what I do for this team. You know, tomorrow's headline should be what my team did for me tonight."

FLORIDA | Tyus 5-7 1-4 11, Parsons 6-11 1-2 13, Macklin 2-3 1-2 5, Boynton 5-12 0-0 13, Walker 6-10 6-10 20, Shipman 2-2 0-0 4, McClanahan 1-1 0-0 2, Werner 0-3 0-0 0, Kadji 0-0 0-0 0, Murphy 1-1 1-5 3. Totals 28-50 10-23 71.

SOUTH CAROLINA | Steed 2-3 1-2 5, Jackson 3-8 0-0 6, Muldrow 7-13 2-2 16, Downey 6-18 11-12 24, Raley-Ross 6-15 4-6 20, Spinella 0-2 0-0 0, Galloway 2-6 1-2 6, Baniulis 0-0 0-0 0, Jefferson 0-3 0-0 0. Totals 26-68 19-24 77.

Halftime_Florida 35-31. 3-Point Goals_Florida 5-16 (Boynton 3-9, Walker 2-4, Parsons 0-1, Werner 0-2), South Carolina 6-22 (Raley-Ross 4-11, Galloway 1-3, Downey 1-6, Spinella 0-1, Muldrow 0-1). Fouled Out_Werner. Rebounds_Florida 41 (Tyus 15), South Carolina 35 (Muldrow 8). Assists_Florida 15 (Parsons 6), South Carolina 11 (Jackson 4). Total Fouls_Florida 21, South Carolina 15. A_12,774.

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