GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP)—South Carolina might want to face Florida again in the Southeastern Conference tournament.
It’s about the only league team the Gamecocks match up really well against.
Tre’ Kelley scored 17 points, made three free throws in the final 26 seconds and had a key steal down the stretch that helped South Carolina upset the seventh-ranked Gators 71-67 on Wednesday night.
The Gamecocks (12-10, 3-6) ended the second-longest home winning streak in the nation at 20 games and swept Florida for the first time since the 1997-98 season.
The teams could meet again in the second round of the conference tournament next month, which might pose another problem for Florida (20-3, 6-3).
“We believed the whole time we could beat these types of teams,” Kelley said, lumping a close loss at Kentucky in with the two wins over Florida. “We’re not coming out just to play. We’re coming out to win basketball games.”
Florida’s Lee Humphrey hit his fourth 3-pointer to make it 69-67 with about 20 seconds to play, then Kelley missed one of two free throws to give the Gators a final chance.
But Brandon Wallace blocked Taurean Green’s 3-point shot, and the Gamecocks became the first road team to celebrate a victory in the O’Connell Center since Tennessee beat Florida 83-76 in overtime on Jan. 19, 2005.
“You’re so motivated when you come into an arena like Rupp or Florida,” said Tarence Kinsey, who scored 16 points before fouling out with 2:14 remaining. “Everybody’s kind of on the same page.”
South Carolina won this one from 3-point range.
The Gamecocks made seven 3-pointers in the first half and added two huge ones on consecutive possessions after Florida built a four-point lead with 4:06 remaining. They finished 10-of-21 from behind the arc.
“This game was all about the 3-point line and our ability to guard it,” Gators coach Billy Donovan said. “They made very, very timely 3-point shots. … The great equalizer in college basketball is the 3-point line. It’s the No. 1 stat I look at.”
Kelley had two treys, including a bank shot. He also had a big steal with about a minute to play that forced the Gators to start fouling.
Joakim Noah was about to go up for an easy dunk when Kelley batted the ball out of his hands. Florida fouled Kelley and he hit two free throws to push the lead to four, 66-62. Following Kelley’s two, the Gamecocks went 5-of-8 from the free-throw line in the final minute.
Bryce Sheldon, who entered the game averaging 3.6 points, made four 3-pointers and finished with a season-high 14 points for the Gamecocks.
Noah led the Gators with 15. Green and Humphrey had 14 each.
The Gators lost at South Carolina two weeks ago because they allowed 14 offensive rebounds and committed 17 turnovers. They lost Wednesday because they couldn’t defend the perimeter.
“We still didn’t play to our capabilities, but I guess I can’t even say they wanted it more than we did,” Florida forward Chris Richard said. “They didn’t really out-hustle us. They beat us from the 3-point line. We didn’t do a good job, guards and bigs, guarding the perimeter. That’s how we lost.”