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Golden, Gators guard duo respond to Florida’s loss at South Carolina

Florida basketball’s woes against zone defense continued on Saturday afternoon in Columbia where the South Carolina Gamecocks fought back from a double-digit deficit to prevail over the Gators, 82-76. Once again, Todd Golden’s team led for 3/4 of the game only to squander the lead in the final 10 minutes.

The Orange and Blue had four players finishing with double digits in the points column, led by Walter Clayton Jr., who also added three rebounds, two assists and two blocked shots. Zyon Pullin also added 18 points along with seven assists and four rebounds; Tyrese Samuel (13) and Riley Kugel (10) were the other two in double digits.

Golden, Pullin and Clayton all spoke briefly with the media following the tough loss. Here is what they had to offer.

GOLDEN: On South Carolina's zone defense

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

I thought it was obviously a good move, just to try to change the pace for them a little bit. We just weren’t aggressive enough attacking it. We were just moving it a little too much side-to-side at the top, got it down early to the corners and had a turnover or two, which I think made us play on our heels a little bit.

Really good length at the top with Zach Davis, and he does a good job playing that ball using his legs to kicks a couple balls and just disrupting the top. We’ve got to be more aggressive attacking it. With that being said, we weren’t that aggressive and we turned it over a lot, so we really just didn’t attack it very well at all.

GOLDEN: On the ball-security issues late

Eakin Howard/Getty Images
Eakin Howard/Getty Images

I just didn’t think we were collectively strong enough with the ball late. South Carolina is physical. They do a good job playing the ball, and if you’re not strong with it you’re going to put yourself in situations where they can take it.

We were trying to kind of knife our way through the zone a little bit, and they’re long, they’re active. We just weren’t playing well in those tight spaces, and that led to most of those turnovers in the second half.

GOLDEN: On whether he has concerns about the team putting this one aside

Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner
Doug Engle/Ocala Star Banner

No. I don’t. Our team’s been really good that way all year. I feel like we have a really mature, resilient group. That doesn’t mean we’re winning on Tuesday, but I think our team is going to prepare really well. They understand the challenge at hand. I truly don’t. I think we’ll be ready to go Tuesday night.

GOLDEN: On Walter Clayton’s ability to make contested shots

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports

It was a little give-and-take today. He was a little loose with the ball. Walter is one of the best shooters in college basketball. He has the ability to beat a defense even if they play really good coverages and execute what they’re trying to do.

I think he did that for a majority of the night and took the air out of the gym with some of the threes that he hit. Again, that’s what makes him a special player. He’s a great contested jump shooter and does a really good job of stopping on a dime, creating space and lifting up into his jump shot. He hit some big ones for us tonight.

GOLDEN: On trying to get more consistent defense and Meechie Johnson’s performance

Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports

Yeah, he made some shots and they were at the line the whole second half. Again, it’s been an issue for us on the road for us going back to A&M. They shot 31 free throws tonight, we shoot 15.

It’s going to be really hard to beat a top-25 team on the road with that disparity. I think both teams were really physical trying to get downhill and in the paint. But they shot 22 free throws in the second half, we shot 10. That’s just a really big delta to try and close.

I have to do a better job teaching my guys to defend without fouling. Obviously, these other teams that we’re playing are doing a better job of defending without fouling.

PULLIN: On what made the difference

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

We had a few turnovers down the stretch. That 1-3-1 bothered us a little bit. I think we were starting to figure it out toward the end, but I think that kind of slowed us down. We’ve just got to be better at figuring it out when teams do go like that. I thought we were rolling.

PULLIN: On moving on to Tuesday’s game

Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports
Jordan Prather-USA TODAY Sports

Keep that next-game mentality. This was one. They got us. We’ve got to find a way to learn from it. We’ve got another big one Tuesday. If we come out slow, it’s another game we could lose. Just focus on the next game and find a way to win that one.

Walter Clayton Jr.

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

On what made the difference down the stretch:

“I turned the ball over too much. Us not getting shots up, that’s on me.”

On how they put this behind for the next game:

“Keep doing what we’ve been doing, but mentally prepare and talk about second halves.”

Next up

Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports

The Gators return home for a rematch against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Tuesday, March 5, inside the O’Connell Center. Tipoff is slated for 7 p.m. ET and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

Read more

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Gators stand pat in CBS Sports bracketology ahead of Gamecocks game

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Story originally appeared on Gators Wire