- Mike DiRocco, ESPN Staff Writer
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida survived its worst 3-point shooting game of the season thanks to one of its better performances from the free-throw line.
The Gators shot a season-low 25 percent from the 3-point range (7-for-28) -- at one point missing nine consecutive long-range attempts -- but made up for it by making a season-high 23 free throws in front of 10,003 at the O'Connell Center Thursday night. Florida went 23-for-32 from the line, including making 16 of its final 18 attempts after starting 7-for-14. It was UF's seventh-best performance from the free-throw line this season.
"I guess we got a little frustrated. Everybody wasn't making their [3-point] shots," freshman guard Bradley Beal said. "When we have shooting nights like that, that's when we have to turn up the defense. We were really frustrated with our 3s but we have to be better than that."
The 11th-ranked Gators (18-4, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) made six of their first 12 3-point attempts in the game's first 14 minutes, but missed their next nine consecutive 3-point shots. Kenny Boynton stopped the streak with 7:17 remaining -- a span of nearly 19 minutes.
UF was able to secure its sixth consecutive victory, however, by going 14-for-15 from the free-throw line in the game's final 3:45.
"We missed them early, but we've got good shooters," senior point guard Erving Walker said. "We've just got to step up to the line with confidence and know that we're going to make it."
Player of the game: Boynton scored 24 points, which was the most he's scored since he had a season-high 26 against Yale on Dec. 31. Boynton went 6-for-13 from the field and 4-for-8 from 3-point range. He was just 4-for-17 from 3-point range in his three previous games. He also went 8-for-10 from the free-throw line, including making 5-of-6 in the game's final 1:09.
Stat of the game: Florida had 14 offensive rebounds in the first half. South Carolina had 11 total rebounds. UF out-rebounded South Carolina 23-11 in the half.
What did we learn: The Gators are still having a hard time moving past mistakes or bad shots. Beal in particular struggles in this area, letting a mistake on the offensive end -- whether it's a missed shot or a turnover -- bleed into his defense on the ensuing possession. UF coach Billy Donovan is going to have to figure out a way to get the players to learn how to quit dwelling on mistakes and move onto the next play.
Noteworthy: Beal posted his fourth career double-double (17 points, 11 rebounds). The 11 rebounds were a career high. He had five offensive rebounds, which is as many as he had in the last 10 games combined. ... Florida has now won 18 consecutive games at the O'Connell Center. ... The Gators have won 10 of the last 13 meetings with the Gamecocks (9-12, 1-6). ... Florida out-rebounded South Carolina 42-30. The Gamecocks out-rebounded the Gators 30-25 in their previous meeting this season. ... Walker has made at least one 3-pointer in 20 consecutive games. He is now sixth on the school's all-time scoring list with 1,609 points.
4dGreg Ostendorf and Alex Scarborough