Gamecocks pull off big upset over Gators
SOUTH CAROLINA GAMECOCKS BASKETBALL
GAINESVILLE, FLA.—Chris Silva spent the first part of his season struggling to get into any rhythm whatsoever, and it was reflected in the Gamecocks’ record.
But, in just a few seconds Saturday night, those woes washed away. With 2.5 seconds left and the Gamecocks tied with Florida, Silva caught a full court inbounds pass from Felipe Haase, found himself wide open, turned and jammed it home.
The dunk ultimately served as the game-winning shot as the Gamecocks upset Florida on the road 71-69 and those early-season frustrations seemed like distant memories.
“I was on the screen and I was sitting right next to him,” Keyshawn Bryant said. “He got open and I was like, ‘Man, we won the game.’”
Silva’s dunk, which came after Florida made one of two free throws with 3.5 seconds on the clock to tie the game, capped an 18-point performance where he scored eight of the Gamecocks’ final 15 points.
He’s now scored in double figures in six straight games and averaging 16.1 points over that stretch as he and the Gamecocks (6-7, 1-0 SEC) stormed all the way back from a 13-point deficit in the first half to their first SEC road win since Jan. 24, 2017 against Florida.
“I messed him up. It was all me," Frank Martin said. "We’re back to having him do the stuff he’s good at and making him understand he’s earned respect around here, myself included. Now he’s able to play through his strengths, which makes him a real good basketball player.”
South Carolina fell behind early after some dreadful shooting to start the game and had more turnovers (15) than made shots (10) in the first half, finishing with a season-high 22 turnovers.
A big reason the Gamecocks stayed in the game against a Florida team that came into Saturday’s game the best defensive team in the league was because of two veteran players in Hassani Gravett and Tre Campbell.
The two combined for 15 first-half points and sparked a late run to make it a four-point game at the break before helping lead the Gamecocks to that comeback.
Gravett ultimately finished with 22 points, one shy of tying his career high.
“Hassani’s grown up a lot,” Frank Martin said. “He’s growing up as a kid and as a player, which is allowing him to have success and allowing his team to have success. That’s a credit to him. some guys never buy in; he’s starting to buy in. I don’t care what you do in life or who you are, it’s never too late to buy in. he’s starting to figure it out.”
Then, in the second half, the freshmen got to take over. With the Gamecocks down nine and 7:17 second to play, Bryant took over for a three-minute stretch as he scored six straight points and the Gamecocks went on a game-tying 9-0 run that vaulted them to the road win.
This came after a rough first half where he scored twice and turned the ball over seven times.
“I don’t feel like that was unusual,” Gravett said. “He was upset with himself in the first half and he came out, we all picked him up, and he came through. I expected that from him. You have to have faith."
This win is the first SEC-opening win on the road in two years and gives the Gamecocks their first back-to-back wins of the season.
A victory against what Martin called a “real good” opponent can go a long way for a young, freshman-laden team, and it’ll be up to them and the upperclassmen to build off of this.
“Today we showed who had more heart," Bryant said. "We had more heart than the other team and we came out with a win.”
Player of the game: Hassani Gravett finished one point away from tying his career high, scoring 22 points while providing a spark off the bench.
Statistical leaders: Gravett, 22 points; Maik Kotsar, 6 rebounds; Tre Campbell, 4 assists
Up next: South Carolina returns to Columbia for its SEC home opener against Mississippi State. Tip off for that will be Tuesday at 9 p.m. on ESPNU.