COLUMBIA, S.C. (USC SID) – The 23rd-ranked South Carolina men’s basketball team picked up a crucial win Saturday afternoon, holding off Florida (17-10, 8-6 SEC) in overtime, 73-69. Michael Carrera went for 20 points and matched his career-high with 15 rebounds to lead the team, four Gamecocks in total scored in double digits. The win keeps Carolina (22-5, 9-5) in position for a top-four seed in the upcoming conference tournament, and snaps a five-year winless streak against the Gators.
A 7-0 run gave South Carolina an early lead to start the game, and the team slowly added to its total through the first 10 minutes for a 21-10 lead. Mindaugas Kacinas was locked in early, hitting his first four shots from the field. As a team, the offense scored 20 of its 30 total first-half points in the paint. Following a Florida 3, the Gamecocks used another 9-0 run to take their largest lead of the day at 30-13 with seven minutes to play.
Unbeknownst to them at the time, that would be the team’s final points of the period. The Gators closed the final seven minutes with a 20-0 run to storm back to a 33-30 halftime lead. Carolina missed nine-straight field goals and committed three turnovers to allow Florida to swing the momentum. Michael Carrera led the home side with eight points and nine rebounds in the first 20 minutes.
The Gators pushed the lead up to seven, 39-32, two minutes in to the second half, but the Gamecocks would not be deflated. They would turn Florida over four times and hold them scoreless for a five-minute stretch that helped Carolina climb back ahead 43-42 with 11 minutes to go in the game. From that point on it would be neck-and-neck, neither team would lead by more than four for the rest of regulation.
There would be ten lead changes in the final ten minutes of regulation, but the Gamecocks would hold a 64-63 advantage after a dunk from Sindarius Thornwell with 30 seconds to play. Florida would draw the foul on the other end, but split the free throws to tie it. Both teams had another chance to end it, but the game would move to the extra period.
In overtime, Laimonas Chatkevicius scored the team’s first two baskets for an early lead in overtime, but Florida’s Chris Chiozza hit a 3 off a turnover to take the 69-68 lead with 2:42 to go. South Carolina’s defense would hold the Gators without a point the rest of the way, getting a pair of free throws from Carrera and Thornwell in the final 90 seconds to take the lead back for good.