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No. 19 Florida hits 12 3s to beat South Carolina Gamecocks 79-65

By Pete Iacobelli

Associated Press

Published: Saturday, Jan. 14 2012 7:30 p.m. MST

South Carolina's Bruce Ellington (23) drives to the basket as Florida's Erik Murphy (33) and Erving Walker (11) defend during the first half of their NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 14, 2012, in Columbia, S.C. Florida won 79-65.

Mary Ann Chastain, Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Kenny Boynton scored 15 points and hit four of No. 19 Florida's 12 3-pointers in a 79-65 victory over South Carolina on Saturday night.

The Gators (14-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) came in leading the league in 3-pointers with nearly 11 per game. They reached double figures from long range for the 13th time this season but first in SEC play.

Boynton wasn't alone in hitting from way outside. Erving Walker added three from long range, while Bradley Beal and Mike Rosario had two apiece. The Gators took control behind three 3-pointers during a 19-3 run to start the second half.

Not even beloved Gators football great Steve Spurrier — here for a halftime celebration of the Gamecocks season — could slow down Florida, which had six players reach double-figures in scoring.

Will Yeguete and Bradley Beal had 14 points each, Erik Murphy and Erving Walker 11 apiece, and Mike Rosario added 10. Yeguete went 6 of 6 from the field and added a team-high eight rebounds.

Florida finished 12 of 24 from behind the arc and a hot 53.2 percent (25 of 47) overall.

Bruce Ellington had 17 points to lead the Gamecocks (8-9, 9-3), who opened league play with three consecutive losses for the first time in coach Darrin Horn's four seasons.

Florida took charge with a fast start coming out of the break and held the Gamecocks scoreless for more than 8 minutes.

Boynton started things with his fourth 3-pointer and Beal followed with another long distance shot as the Gators moved in front 48-44. Rosario had a breakaway dunk after a steal, which followed an embarrassing play where he passed to Yeguete, who was waiting on the sidelines to enter the game. Rosario's teammates laughed and smiled before Beal added another 3-pointer.

By the time Beal hit two foul shots, the Gators led 59-44 — and South Carolina could get no closer than 10 the rest of the way.

South Carolina figured it would struggle against Florida's conference-best outside shooting. No one in the SEC had made more 3-pointers than the Gators have put up so far, and the Gamecocks had already been stung for 13 3-pointers in a 67-57 home loss to Vanderbilt last Tuesday night.

Florida came out firing, with Walker and Rosario making two 3-pointers each and Boynton adding another for a 26-18 lead halfway through the opening period.

The Gamecocks, though, began to find their range from behind the arc, too. Bruce Ellington hits a pair of 3s and freshman Brenton Williams hit two from well behind the line to give the Gamecocks a 41-40 lead at the break.

Neither team could stop the other: Florida finished 12 of 22 (54.5 percent) from the field, while South Carolina topped them at 15 of 25 (60 percent.).

Ellington, South Carolina's two-sport standout, got his first start since the football season ended. Ellington started fast, going 3 for 4 before getting pulled with two fouls.

Still, the biggest cheers came at halftime when Spurrier and his record-setting, 11-win football team were celebrated by the crowd. Spurrier, who had knee replacement surgery last week, came out with a cane and promised that while he looked gimpy now, "I'll run out on the field with this team next year."

Spurrier won a national championship coaching at Florida — his alma mater. He introduced several players, including quarterback Connor Shaw and defensive end Devin Taylor, and reminded the crowd that South Carolina still hadn't reached its goal of an SEC championship.

"When we come out of Atlanta hugging and high-fiving, that's when you know we hit the Promised Land," Spurrier said.

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