GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Bruce Ellington scored 23 points, including the final six for South Carolina, and the Gamecocks beat Florida 72-69 on Saturday.
Ellington got pretty much any shot he wanted against Florida's smaller guards. His biggest ones came late, when he made a driving layup and four free throws to close it out in the final seconds.Ellington was 8 of 15 shooting, including 3 of 7 from 3-point range, and chipped in four rebounds and three assists.Brian Richardson, Lakeem Jackson and Sam Muldrow added 10 points apiece for the Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference), who won for just the fifth time in the last 21 games in the series.Muldrow hit a huge 3-pointer with 53 seconds remaining that put South Carolina ahead 66-62, and Ellington took over from there.Erving Walker led the Gators (13-4, 2-1) with 17 points. Patric Young and Vernon Macklin added 12 apiece for Florida, which came up short after rallying from a 10-point deficit in the second half.South Carolina dominated the first half, shooting 48 percent from the field, blocking six shots and shutting down Florida's backcourt duo of Walker and Kenny Boynton. Making matters worse for the Gators, Chandler Parsons (1 for 3), Alex Tyus (1 for 6) and Vernon Macklin (2 for 7) couldn't get anything going inside.Florida trailed 35-25 at the break, but played considerably better in the second half. Parsons and Boynton hit consecutive 3s to trim South Carolina's lead to 59-55, then Walker sank a hope-it-goes shot while falling down on a fast break.Walker was fouled on the play and missed the free throw, but Tyus got the rebound and put it back up to tie the game at 59.That 10-0 run had the O'Connell Center rocking, but Ellington sank a jumper on the other end to stop the momentum. Jackson followed with a spinning drive against Parsons, putting the Gamecocks up 63-59.Walker responded with a 3-pointer that got Florida close again. But Muldrow answered on the other end, and Florida's shots stopped falling.The Gators really struggled from the free throw line, missing 10 shots. Walker missed the front end of a 1-and-1 that could have put Florida ahead. Florida missed its final five free throws, lost points in a tight game.South Carolina was 11 of 15 from the foul line and 7 of 21 from behind the arc. The Gamecocks were even better on the defensive end, with Ellington, Richardson and Ramon Galloway causing all sorts of problems for Florida. Boynton finished 3 of 10 from the field and had just one assist. Walker was 6 of 12, with two turnovers and two assists.