GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — AJ Lawson scored 22 points, Seventh Woods added 12 and South Carolina beat No. 22 Florida 72-66 on Wednesday night, potentially making the Gators’ return to the rankings a brief one.
Keyshawn Bryant added eight points for the Gamecocks, including six in a decisive 13-1 run over the final 6:37 to close the game. That spurt turned a six-point deficit into an unlikely road victory.
Bryant scored on two dunks and a putback, a microcosm of Florida’s issues all night. South Carolina (5-6, 3-4 Southeastern Conference) dominated the Gators (10-5, 6-4) inside, outscoring them 50-30 in the paint and getting 13 offensive rebounds.
Florida was playing its first game as a ranked team in more than 14 months. The Gators snuck into the Top 25 after winning four in a row, including victories against No. 6 Tennessee and at No. 11 West Virginia.
But they looked nothing like the same team against South Carolina coach Frank Martin’s tough and scrappy bunch.
The Gamecocks pounded the ball in the lane early and often, so many times that Florida ended the game with 12 blocks. But the strategy worked as Lawson made 9 of 16 shots to go along with eight rebounds. Bryant added seven boards.
Tre Mann led Florida with 17 points and eight rebounds. Noah Locke added 15 on five 3-pointers. Colin Castleton chipped in 11 points, seven rebounds and seven blocks, his fourth outing with at least five blocks in the last six games.
But Castleton and fellow big man Omar Payne got schooled in and around the rim.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks won their first game in five tries away from home. But they don’t have gimmes down the stretch with road games remaining against Tennessee, Mississippi State and Georgia. Each of those teams has at least eight wins at home.
Florida: Hours after ruling forward Keyontae Johnson out for the remainder of the season, the Gators lost all the momentum they gained in recent weeks. Johnson’s family released a statement saying experts unanimously agree that his Dec. 12 collapse on the court at Florida State was unrelated to having COVID-19 in the summer. The family added that Johnson “will spend the rest of the season focused on being the best coach and teammate he can be.”