GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Kenny Boynton scored 24 points, Bradley Beal had his fourth double-double and No. 12 Florida beat South Carolina, 74-66, Thursday night for its sixth consecutive victory.
The Gators (18-4, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) swept the Gamecocks (9-12, 1-6) for the first time since 2008 and extended their home-winning streak to 18 games.
Florida had to grind out the latest one.
The Gators led by 17 points midway through the first half, but USC slowly whittled it down to five with 2:51 left. Brenton Williams had a chance to make it a five-point game with 1:13 remaining, but he missed the first of two free throws.
Williams also had a costly turnover on the previous possession. He was 2-of-9 shooting.
Florida made 11 of 12 free throws in the final 1:09 to close it out.
Bruce Ellington led South Carolina with 15 points. Damontre Harris and Malik Cooke added 12 each.
The Gamecocks squandered several chances in the final few minutes. Maybe the toughest to swallow was when Florida’s Erving Walker came up with a loose ball and found Beal slicing through the lane. Beal dunked the ball, got fouled and completed the three-point play to put the Gators up 59-50.
Beal finished with 17 points and 11 rebounds.
Walker had 14 points, seven assists and four rebounds.
The Gators built their big lead with a huge rebounding advantage and by making four of their first seven 3-point attempts. But they went cold from long range in the second half and finished 7 of 28 from behind the arc.
South Carolina couldn’t take advantage after digging a huge hole.
Florida dominated the opening 10 minutes.
The Gators made 3-pointers, got every loose ball and took advantage of a 14-1 rebounding margin to build a 27-10 lead.
Nothing went wrong for Florida early. The press took South Carolina out of rhythm, and the Gators seemed to find wide-open shooters all over the floor. And even when they did miss, they got just about every rebound. Florida ended the first half with 14 offensive boards — more than coach Billy Donovan’s team had in its previous three games combined.
The Gamecocks eventually settled down and started slicing into the lead.
Brian Richardson hit a 3-pointer and a jumper, and then Cooke found his stroke. Cooke sank a mid-range shot, and then converted a three-point play on the next possession. Cooke flipped in a shot over his head, got fouled and knocked down the free throw.
RJ Slawson continued South Carolina’s late surge with a layup in the final minute. The Gamecocks ended the half on a 9-1 run and suddenly trailed 37-28 after looking like they would get blown out.
Florida contributed to its problems late in the first half with poor shot selection and missed free throws. Beal missed three from the charity stripe in the final 5:48, and Walker missed both of his in the final minute.
Cooke made it a six-point game, 37-31, with a three-point play to open the second half.
The Gators responded, though.
Walker made consecutive floaters in the lane, and Beal tipped in a miss. The game went back and forth the rest of the way. The biggest different was Florida started making free throws and finished 23 for 32 from the stripe.