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Gators lose point guard in win against Gamecocks

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Posted: Thursday, January 9, 2014 12:48 am

No. 10 Florida handled Southeastern Conference bottom-dweller South Carolina 74-58 on Wednesday night in the O’Connell Center, but a right ankle sprain to senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin put a damper on the Gators’ program record-tying 24th straight home victory.

Wilbekin left the game with 2:39 remaining after injuring his right ankle — the one he injured on Dec. 2 against UConn — on a missed layup attempt. He could not put any weight on his ankle and needed UF trainers to help him to the locker room.

The severity of Wilbekin’s injury is unknown, and he is questionable for Florida’s game at Arkansas on Saturday, coach Billy Donovan said. Wilbekin will miss the Gators’ practice today and will be re-evaluated by trainers on Friday.

"He was driving down the lane out of control," Donovan said of the play. "There’s no movement. It’s early in the clock. He’s just got to do a better job."

Florida had a sub waiting for Wilbekin before the senior suffered the sprain.

"It sucks, because it was around the end of the game that he went and did his little minor ankle sprain or whatever it may be," center Patric Young said. "But I think he’s going to all right.

"I talked to him afterward and he said he’s going to be OK."

Before suffering his injury, Wilbekin was in the midst of a breakout game and finally ended a recent shooting slump. After shooting 11 of 35 from the field — including a 4-of-17 clip from beyond the arc — in his previous three contests, he shot 5 of 11 for a team-high 17 points against the Gamecocks in his team’s SEC opener.

In 34 minutes of action, Wilbekin made 3 of 6 three-point attempts, notched three assists, did not turn the ball over and sunk all four of his free throws.

Young and senior forward Casey Prather each chipped in 13 points for the Gators (12-2, 1-0 SEC).

Florida’s win was not as lopsided as last season’s result — the Gators beat the Gamecocks by 39 points last year in the O’Dome and held them to only 10 points at halftime. On Wednesday, South Carolina was within single digits of UF in the second half.

The Gators jumped out to a 14-1 advantage in the game’s first six minutes and led by as many as 18 points in the first half. South Carolina needed 9:23 to make its first field goal.

But over a span of 2:08 late in the half, USC responded with a 7-0 run to cut UF’s advantage to 34-21 at halftime.

Eventually, South Carolina trailed by only eight points 5:09 into the second half as its 2-3 zone had Florida frustrated. Then, Florida increased its lead to 15 points thanks to a 12-5 run capped off by an alley-oop dunk by Dorian Finney-Smith.

Utilizing a full-court press, the Gators forced the Gamecocks to 21 turnovers on Wednesday.

"It definitely benefitted us," Prather said of UF’s full-court press. "That’s like playing to our strengths, using our guys who are athletic and quick in speed anticipating."

Florida shot only 5 of 19 from three-point range but 21 of 26 from inside the arc.

UF’s win is its sixth straight and 24th consecutive victory at home, tying a streak held from March 1, 2006, to Nov. 20, 2007.

Follow Landon Watnick on Twitter @LandonWatnick

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