SEC showdown at Madison Square Garden for spot in Final Four
NEW YORK (AP) No. 7 South Carolina (25-10) vs. No. 4 Florida (27-8)
East Regional final, 2:20 p.m. EDT
BOTTOM LINE: The Southeastern Conference rivals have never met in a bigger basketball game than they will Sunday at Madison Square Garden. South Carolina is looking for its first Final Four appearance. The Gamecocks have been maybe the biggest surprise of the tournament, beating No. 2 seed Duke and blowing out third-seeded Baylor. Florida is trying to get to the Final Four for the sixth time overall and first since 2014 - and for the first time under coach Mike White. In 2015, White replaced Billy Donovan, who guided the Gators to two NCAA championships and four Final Fours in 19 seasons. The last time SEC teams played a game to go to the Final Four was 1986 when LSU edged Kentucky 59-57.
RUBBER MATCH: The Gators and Gamecocks split two meetings this season, with each team winning at home. South Carolina won the first game 57-53, despite shooting 29 percent from the field. Florida then took the game in Gainesville, 81-66.
PRETTY UGLY: South Carolina admittedly likes to play a style that is not always aesthetically pleasing. ''It's beautiful to us," coach Frank Martin said.
Florida also likes to mix it up. The Gators turned around the Wisconsin game when they increased the pressure on the defensive end. They ended up getting 16 turnovers against Wisconsin, which came in averaging 11.8.
''We're both two tough defensive teams and we take pride in the defensive end,'' White said after beating the Badgers with an overtime buzzer-beater. ''We know each other well, so it's going to be a grind it out game, probably down to the wire just like this one.''
SLUMP BUSTED: Lost in a bit in the drama of Florida's Sweet 16 victory on a 3 as time expired by Chris Chiozza was the career-game from KeVaughn Allen. The Gators' leading scorer had managed just 11 points in their first two NCAA games, but he had a career-best 35 against the Badgers. He started the tournament 5 for 31 from the field.
THORN IN FLORIDA'S SIDE: SEC player of the year Sidarius Thornwell scored 43 points in two games against the Gators and he has been maybe the best individual player of the NCAA Tournament, averaging 25.7 per game.
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