COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Florida continued to solidify its postseason prospects with a 65-41 win over South Carolina on Saturday.
The Gators (17-8, 8-4 SEC) never fell off the NCAA Tournament bubble but losing three of four games before beating LSU earlier in the week dropped them from the Top 25 and lessened their chances of winning the SEC regular-season championship. After the slump-breaking win over the Tigers, Florida crushed the Gamecocks (13-12, 4-8) at Colonial Life Arena by dominating the paint.
Florida's defense blocked eight shots in the first half and contained center Chris Silva, the anchor of the Gamecocks' offense. When South Carolina made a brief run to get back in the game, the Gators sank six of their final seven shots for a 21-point lead at halftime.
Florida never let South Carolina get within 15 points in the second half. The Gamecocks lost their fifth straight game.
The Gamecocks beat Florida on Jan. 24 by hitting 11 3-pointers and getting 22 points from point guard Wes Myers. On Saturday, Myers was on the bench as Hassani Gravett started. South Carolina made two 3-pointers and Myers was scoreless.
Silva found his way through Florida's defense for 10 points and Frank Booker scored 17, the Gamecocks' only offensive highlights.
Florida: Guard Egor Koulechov said earlier in the week that the Gators wanted to be "less pretty, more gritty" in its execution. Their defense lived up to it Saturday, shutting off the passing lanes and having a hand in every interior South Carolina possession. The Gators entered Saturday only two games back in the SEC standings and play first-place Auburn and second-place Tennessee over the final six games.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks haven't won since beating Florida on Jan. 24. While South Carolina hasn't had any "bad" losses, a team that was flirting with a postseason berth is approaching a .500 record with scarce time to get better. Frank Martin has never lost more than six straight since he took over at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have dropped five in a row.
Florida: Tries to strengthen its postseason seed against slumping Georgia and a trip to league-worst Vanderbilt.
South Carolina: Faced with attempting to break its losing streak against No. 15 Tennessee and No. 8 Auburn, the top two teams in the SEC.
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