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March 4, 2014

No. 1 Gators rout USC in second half

Frank Martin

The 12,781 fans who came to see South Carolina take on No. 1 Florida got a record-setting show - just not the show they were hoping for.

Sophomore guard Michael Frazier II made sure of that. Setting SEC, Florida and USC records for most 3-pointers made in a game - 11 - Frazier's 37 points assured that any hope the Gamecocks had of a second-straight upset were squashed in a 72-46 loss.

A quick look at the record set by Frazier: Most 3-pointers in a Southeastern Conference game. Most 3-pointers allowed by a USC opponent (the previous record was 8 by Ole Miss' Chris Warren in 2011). Most 3-pointers attempted by a USC opponent (18; previous record was 15, also by Warren). Most 3-pointers made by a Florida player (previous record was 9 by Joe Lawrence in 1986).

Frazier II's 37 points were two shy of a Gator high for points on the road (39 by Tony Miller at Auburn in 1972), and he tied the Florida record for most 3-pointers attempted in a game (18). In short, he dominated both early (15 first-half points) and late, and now the Gators (28-2, 17-0) will try to make history by going 18-0 in the SEC.

"The ball felt good in warmups," Frazier II said. "In the game, my teammates did a great job of finding me and I was able to get in a zone. The ball went in.

"It was a total team effort. The ball was able to go in the hoop for me tonight. It's the first college game I've felt like that. My ball had great arc on it, and my legs felt great."

At the half, the Gamecocks were very much in the game trailing by just two, 28-26, and riding a strong defensive effort that, besides the lapses on Frazier, was effective on the rest of the Gators, none of whom had more than 4 points. On the other hand, balanced scoring from USC (Mindaugas Kacinas 9, 6 from Duane Notice and Laimonas Chatkevicius, 5 from Sindarius Thornwell) allowed the Gamecocks to hang with the nation's best team.

"I think the way South Carolina defends, and Frank's teams have always done a great job of this, it's really hard to get to the basket," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "Nothing is easy, everything is contested. I thought South Carolina in the first half won all the loose-ball plays, they had a plus-nine rebounding margin against us.

"They kept themselves right in the game on second-chance opportunities. They were more active and more physical than us in the first half."

After Thornwell came out and hit a floater for the first basket of the second half to ti the game at 28, things began to go south. The Gators quickly put together an 11-0 run to go ahead 39-28, but the run was answered by back-to-back 3-pointers from Brent Williams, one of which he was fouled on, to cut the lead to just four at 39-35 with 13:06 to play.

From there Florida launched a blistering 18-0 run over the next 3:18 led by 12 from Frazier II to salt the game away with a 22-point lead at 57-35 with 7:35 to play. The Gamecocks never got back to within 20.

"In the second half, we did a really good job on the glass," Donovan said. "We did a good job out in transition and we did a good job of finding Michael and he got going in an unbelievable way. His individual shooting performance was phenomenal."

No other Gator scored in double figures. Center Patric Young, who led the rest of Florida's scorers with 9, said he couldn't believe how poorly USC was guarding Frazier II.

"We were amazed by how open he was getting," Young said.

So was USC coach Frank Martin.

"We never put a hand in his face," Martin said. "I thought we were late to him every single time. Some how, some way, we obviously didn't express to our players that Michael Frazier shoots the basketball."

Williams, who finished with 7 points in his final collegiate home game, said the blame was on the players for not realizing where Frazier II was on the court at all times.

"I think it was all about miscommunication," Williams said. "A couple times we didn't pay attention when he subbed in the game off out of bounds plays. That's something totally on us."

For a perfectionist like Martin, when he heard Williams' comments about not knowing where Frazier II was or when he was in the game, all he could do was laugh.

"When the scouting report says 'There's one guy who shoots the 3,' I'm not going to sit here and tell you we're great, but we usually don't get beat by one player," Martin said. "We're pretty good at taking strengths away from people and we never even got to him.

"When we were in the zone, we didn't even identify him. In the first half we played physically tired, and in the second half we gave into fatigue mentally. When you give in to fatigue mentally, you've got no chance."

Martin said he's disappointed not in the outcome but in the effort.

"It's unfortunate," Martin said. "When you play the number one team in the country, the one thing you want to wake up the next morning and say is you laid it on the line. We tried but we gave in to fatigue. When our guys wake up tomorrow morning, I don't think they'll be happy they gave in to fatigue.

"Credit Florida, they're good. I thought at halftime we had scored through their mistakes, and I didn't see us having the fuel in the tank to sustain the 40 minutes of effort you have to play to defeat them."

Box score

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