Finney-Smith's 20 lead Florida to 72-68 win
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Michael Frazier II felt good warming up again at Colonial Life Arena and that's usually a good thing for Florida.
Frazier, who scored 37 points in a win over South Carolina here last season, had 17 points as the Gators snapped a two-game losing streak and opened Southeastern Conference play with a win for a third straight season in a 72-68 victory Wednesday night.
Dorian Finney-Smith had 20 points for Florida.
Frazier, the lone starter back from last year's Final Four team, made a school record 11 3-pointers in his effort a season ago. While getting ready for this one, he felt just as good as he did in March 2014.
''Man, I feel it again,'' he said.
Although, it took a while to show it as Frazier did not start for the first time this season. Coach Billy Donovan said Frazier puts enormous pressure on himself to lead the Gators and when his shots don't fall, the junior takes it to heart and loses some of his effectiveness.
''He needed to sit,'' Donovan said.
That left the Gators (8-6, 1-0 SEC) even more shorthanded at the start with the suspension to senior starter Jon Horford, kept home by Donovan for conduct detrimental to the club.
When Frazier finally got in, he showed his shooting ability. He hit two 3-pointers and two free throws in just over a minute as Florida moved in front 17-6. After the Gamecocks rallied to lead 40-34, it was Frazier again spurring on the Gators with his final long-range basket to tie the game at 44-all with 11:36 left. That began a 19-8 run as Florida took control on the way to its seventh straight victory over South Carolina (9-4, 0-1).
Frazier is 16 of 28 in his two games at South Carolina, including 14 of 23 from behind the arc.
Frazier didn't let his benching bother him. ''I took it as a challenge,'' he said.
Tyrone Johnson had 20 points to lead South Carolina, which had won seven straight games coming in.
The Gamecocks closed to 70-68 on Johnson's three-point play with 6.8 seconds left. But Eli Carter followed with two foul shots as the Gators hung on.
For Frazier, it continued the junior's hot shooting at Colonial Life Arena. He was 12 of 21 overall, including 11 of 18 from 3-point range in Florida's win here in 2013-14. This time, Frazier was 3 of 5 from long distance despite not starting for the first time this season.
Florida entered SEC play a struggling team, having lost by a combined six points to state rival Florida State and Connecticut in its past two games. The Gators were even more shorthanded with Donovan's suspensions of Horford, the brother of former Gators great Al Horford, and walk-on freshman guard Zach Hodskins. Neither player traveled with the team to Columbia. Donovan said he would re-evaluate their status when the team returned to Gainesville.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin said his team had two bad days of practice and did not respond well when Florida upped its play in the second half. ''We got what we deserved,'' he said.
Florida: Michael Frazier II had a career game last time he played at South Carolina, going for a Gator record 11 3-pointers and 37 points in his team's 72-46 victory. Frazier has 33 3-pointers this season to lead Florida.
South Carolina: The Gamecocks have stepped up their defense this season. Last time out, they held then No. 9 Iowa State to 35.1 percent shooting, 15 points below its season average in a 64-60 South Carolina victory.
Dorian Finney-Smith said while the team hadn't opened the way it wanted to this year, the SEC is a chance to get back on track. ''The others games, they don't matter anymore,'' he said. ''We're going to take it one game at a time and get back to Florida's culture.''
South Carolina's Martin said a second-half flagrant foul called on his center, Laimonas Chatkevicius changed the momentum in Florida's favor. Jacob Kurtz made both foul shots after getting hit by Chatkevicius' elbow, then Dorian Finney-Smith followed with a 3-pointer and a three-point play.
Florida returns home to play Mississippi State on Saturday night.
South Carolina travels to face Mississippi on Saturday.