Florida Falters Down The Stretch To South Carolina 77-70, Gamecocks Advance To First Ever Final Four

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ABOVE VIDEO: They were red-hot in the first half Sunday with no discernible sign of fatigue. The No. 4-seed Florida Gators hit shots, skied for rebounds and genuinely matched on the intensity front arguably the most physical team in college basketball, Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina, to take a seven-point lead to the locker room.

NEW YORK – (FLORIDA GATORS) – They were red-hot in the first half Sunday with no discernible sign of fatigue. The No. 4-seed Florida Gators hit shots, skied for rebounds and genuinely matched on the intensity front arguably the most physical team in college basketball, Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina, to take a seven-point lead to the locker room.

And then everything changed.

In the second half, the seventh-seeded Gamecocks made the hustle plays, beat the Gators’ defense to spots, drew fouls, grabbed big boards and completely flipped the script on the way to a 77-70 victory in the NCAA East Region title game in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,047 dressed mostly in maroon-and-red and celebrating the program’s first Final Four berth in school history.

Senior guard Sindarius Thornwell, the 2017 SEC Player of the Year, was superb in scoring 26 points, grabbing seven rebounds and serving as the catalyst for a defense that overwhelmed UF after intermission, allowing only 33-percent shooting from the floor and zero 3-point field goals on 14 tries. During one stretch in the second half, Thornwell scored eight straight points (and 10 of 12, with an assist on the other basket) in a run that pushed the Gamecocks ahead and ultimately sent the Gators (27-9) to their fourth Elite Eight loss in the last seven seasons.

It was quite the come-down, considering mere hours earlier, UF was at the intersection of Cloud 9 and Broadway.

“It’s tough,” said UF junior guard Chris Chiozza, whose heroics two nights before — the running 3-pointer to beat Wisconsin at the buzzer in the Sweet 16 — were the reason his team played Sunday. “All that adrenaline, all that excitement. It was a great feeling. Now you’re on the losing end and your season is over.”

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