Florida has won 7 straight games for the longest streak in coach Mike White’s two seasons with the program.
The Gators (14-3, 5-0 SEC) are one of just three teams still unbeaten in SEC play, jumped four spots in the AP Poll to No. 19 this week and continue to find more and more sources of production within their deep rotation.
But White doesn’t think his team is playing the best it has this season, and that will remain his challenge to the players heading into a tough test at No. 24 South Carolina (14-3, 4-0) on Wednesday night at Colonial Life Arena in Columbia, S.C.
“We’re playing well offensively, we are, and we’ve made a big jump probably due mostly to the fact that our bench has really emerged with Canyon (Barry) and Keith (Stone),” White said. “We’re a much better team offensively than we were a month ago. That was the hope and we’re getting that, but defensively, some of our better performances were three, four, five and six weeks ago. We’ve got to get back to defending at the level that we’re capable of and not playing comfortably because we see the ball going through the net or because we’ve experienced a little bit of success. We’ve got to back to what we’re capable of.”
Barry, the Gators’ sixth man, ranks second on the team in scoring at 12.8 points per game. He is coming off a season-high 27 points against Georgia and is averaging 18.8 points over his last four games. Stone, meanwhile, has seemingly come out of nowhere offensively the last two games to score 14 and 17 points while hitting 6 of 7 3-pointers.
Florida ranks third in the SEC at 79.0 points per game while South Carolina is 12th at 71.7. But the Gamecocks lead the conference in scoring defense, giving up a stingy 59.8 points per game, and also rank first in forcing 17.1 turnovers per game. The Gators are second in that category at 16.7 per game.
“Live-ball turnovers on the road in the SEC are always very, very important, but especially against the Gamecocks,” White said. “They thrive on turning you over and converting in transition, especially at home. They have a great ability to get hands on basketballs, to overpressure you into making unsound decisions, speeding you up. So slowing down, playing off two feet, coming to jump stops, meeting passes, securing the basketball, a lot of fundamental ‘Basketball 101’ things are very important against this defense that creates a ton of havoc.”
What time is tip-off?
Tip-off is set for 6:30 p.m. ET in Columbia, S.C.
What TV channel is showing the Florida-South Carolina game?
The game is being broadcast on SEC Network and be streamed online via WatchESPN.
Who is calling the Florida-South Carolina game?
Tom Hart is on the play-by-play call and Daymeon Fishback is the analyst.
Looking at South Carolina
The Gamecocks, who are in their fifth year under coach Frank Martin, have opened SEC play with wins over Georgia ,Texas A&M, Tennessee and Ole Miss after going 25-9 overall and 11-7 in the conference last season.
They are led by guards Sindarius Thornwell (18.0 points per game, 7.1 rebounds per game) and PJ Dozier (14.9/4.8).
The teams met just once last season with South Carolina prevailing in overtime in Columbia. Florida leads the all-time series 43-23.
“Defensively, their numbers are even better. They’re probably a little quicker and faster, a little bit more athletic than a year ago, in my opinion,” White said. “Thornwell’s just as good, maybe better, because he’s a senior now. You’ve got two of the most improved players in the league in Dozier and (forward Chris) Silva. …
“This would probably be our biggest challenge to date. We’ve played some top 10 teams, this would probably equal the challenge that we had in Tallahassee. We’re gonna have to play our best game to have success.”