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Florida-South Carolina Preview

AP - Sports

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) -- - Top-ranked Florida has a motto for the stretch run: ''chasing greatness.''

Coach Billy Donovan dropped the phrase on his players in recent weeks, hoping to grab their attention and keep them focused on all they can achieve this season.

The Gators already clinched their third Southeastern Conference regular-season championship in the last four years. They also have set school records for regular-season wins (27), consecutive wins (21) and consecutive wins at home (31).

Nonetheless, there's plenty left to accomplish this season.

Florida (27-2, 16-0) can become the first team in SEC history to go 18-0 in league play, needing to win at South Carolina on Tuesday night and beat Kentucky in the team's home finale Saturday. The team also is looking to wrap up a No. 1 seed in the NCAA tournament, and after three straight disappointing losses in regional finals, the senior-laden group won't be satisfied with anything short of the Final Four.

''There are still things out there in front of our team,'' Donovan said Monday. ''There are things out there for these guys to achieve. I think those guys would like to take on those challenges. The biggest challenge is all that stuff doesn't make a difference if we don't play well against South Carolina.''

Florida dominated the Gamecocks (11-18, 4-12) in early January, winning 74-58 in Gainesville.

The Gators have gotten healthier and deeper since, with swingman Casey Prather (ankle), center Patric Young (knee tendinitis) and guard Kasey Hill (groin) having recovered from injuries and forward Chris Walker getting NCAA clearance to play early last month.

Donovan knows his team is capable of making another deep run in the NCAA tournament and is a real threat to win it all for the third time in school history. But keeping players dialed in and playing on edge is far from easy, especially when they hear so much talk about rankings, seedings and streaks.

Donovan's ''chasing greatness'' line certainly caused players to take notice.

''I think as he saw the results at the beginning of the season, winning so many games in a row, breaking records and all that, he just sees the ceiling of this team is really high and he wants to motivate us to keep striving for greatness,'' Young said. ''We can do that every game; we can do that every practice. We just need to focus on that each opportunity we get.''

The SEC played an 18-game conference schedule from 1967 through 1991, and then expanded the league slate last season with the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.

Only two SEC schools have managed a 17-1 mark: Kentucky accomplished the feat twice (1970, 1986), and LSU did it in 1981.

The Tigers are actually the only SEC program to get to 17-0. They started 17-0 in 1981 before losing their regular-season finale against Kentucky.

So the Gators know they have a chance to do something special.

And they're embracing it.

''We still have a lot of things to accomplish,'' guard Michael Frazier II said. ''We still have a lot of goals.''

Standing in the Gators' way Tuesday is a Gamecocks team that defeated then-No. 17 Kentucky 72-67 on Saturday to snap a three-game losing streak.

It was South Carolina's first win over a Top 25 team in more than three years and pulled the Gamecocks out of last place in the SEC. Students ignored repeated warnings and stormed the court, landing South Carolina a $25,000 fine from the league Monday.

Coming off a 16-point loss at Auburn on Wednesday, coach Frank Martin kept screaming ''Kentucky!'' at his players during practice to remind them that they aren't anywhere near the elite team he came to South Carolina to lead.

Martin didn't say if he will scream ''Florida!'' at his team's next practice. But he will remind them of what they need to do if they want to make NCAA tournaments and win league titles.

''That's who we need to compete with to be the program we want to be,'' Martin said.

Florida has won five straight in the series since a 72-69 home loss Jan. 15, 2011.

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