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Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
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Monday / March 27.
  • No. 24 South Carolina Edges No. 19 Florida in Advance of Saturday Showdown vs. No. 5 Kentucky

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    By MIKE McCURRY

    Wednesday’s clash between No. 19 Florida and No. 24 South Carolina was expected to provide some instant clarity as to Kentucky’s biggest SEC competition this season.

    Both the Gators and Gamecocks took a while to sort that out—the two defensive-minded teams started out a combined 0-of-13 from the floor with 12 turnovers—but South Carolina prevailed at home, 57-53, setting the stage for its showdown at Rupp Arena on Saturday.

    In what is one of the biggest weeks in the program’s recent memory, head coach Frank Martin and USC got off on the right foot behind do-everything senior Sindarius Thornwell, who scored 19 of his game-high 20 points over the final 21 minutes, 19 seconds.

    South Carolina, now 5-0 in the SEC, improved to 12-0 when Thornwell suits up this year, as the Gamecocks went just 3-3 during the 6-foot-5 guard’s six-game suspension.

    With another dominant defensive performance, USC ascended to the nation’s leader in adjusted defensive efficiency, according to KenPom.

    Florida turned the ball over on a season-high 21 percent of its possessions while shooting a season-worst 35 percent from the floor. Of course, the Gators’ primary chink in the armor on Wednesday was their startling incompetence in three-point shooting (0 of 17).

    KeVaughn Allen, who entered play averaging a team-best 13.9 points per game, scored just a single point. Ditto for key reserve Keith Stone, who had dropped 31 points in his previous two contests.

    Florida fell to 0-4 this season against current AP Top-25 teams, though it’s worth noting that all of those setbacks (Gonzaga, Duke, Florida State, South Carolina) have come away from home.

    Opportunities to secure great wins are few and far between in the SEC, but Mike White’s squad still has two meetings with Kentucky in addition to their rematch with USC in Gainesville (February 21).

    South Carolina will not have to wait nearly as long for a marquee matchup.

    At 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, the Gamecocks face Kentucky—the Cats have won the last two meetings by an average of 30.5 points—in a game that should calibrate just how much separation UK has from the rest of the league.

    Photo: @GamecockMBB

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