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February 3, 2009

USC-Florida Hoops Extra

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - It was extremely strange.

South Carolina had no trouble hitting 3-pointers, most of them guarded, against Florida on Tuesday. The Gamecocks had 11.

They made 10 free throws. Nobody waving a hand in their face, nobody posting them up, just 10 seconds to stand, concentrate and shoot.

Nope. Off. Rim.

USC was 10-of-22 from the line in a four-point loss, although the performance couldn't be solely blamed for the defeat. Florida won because it worked USC's foul trouble to its advantage and made free throws when it had to, and still had to hold off a determined Devan Downey, who, almost as impossible as it sounds, impressed even more people than he has already.

The Gamecocks (16-5, 5-3 SEC) are now 112-for-201 from the line in SEC games this year (55.7 percent). That's 11th in the league.

Coach Darrin Horn has said it's not an issue, stating that the Gamecocks are just not an 80 percent team from the line. He's right so far - free-throw shooting has contributed to, but not solely caused, any loss this season.

It was the same case on Tuesday. Horn commented on it but also of the tremendous free throw difference between USC and Florida.

"I don't think that's near as important as how many more they shot than us," he said.

USC shot 22. Florida shot a season-high 40, making 31.

TIEBREAKER: USC and Florida split the season series, pushing the Gators into first place in the SEC East at the halfway point. If the SEC East race comes down to a tie, since the head-to-head matchups were split, the tiebreaker will be decided on each team's records within the division as the first criteria.

After Tuesday, each team is 3-2 in the SEC East with five to play.

Should any teams tie for their division title, they will be awarded co-championships. The only time a tiebreaker comes into play is for tournament seeding.

BACK IN BLACK?: After wearing the black road jerseys for the first time this season and beating Kentucky in them, USC donned the togs again. The good fortune didn't work the second time.

USC is 1-1 in black, 2-3 in garnet and 13-1 in white this year.

"We've taken care of business at home, which we wanted to do, we got one road win, which is a start," Horn said. "At the same time, we've got to come back and keep playing."

REST FOR THE WEARY: The Gamecocks host Georgia at 5 p.m. on Saturday and then take a break. USC will not play again after that until Feb. 14, when they travel to Alabama.

That is the first of a two-game road swing, taking USC to Mississippi State four days after.



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