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NCAAB: Amid their worst SEC start in 41 years, Gators take on Gamecocks

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The Florida Gators have opened Southeastern Conference play with three defeats for the first time in four decades.

That the three losses have come to ranked teams is of little consolation to the Gators (9-6, 0-3), who will face South Carolina (10-5, 1-2) on Saturday afternoon in Columbia, S.C.

“We have to get this thing going,” Florida coach Mike White said. “We’ve proven to be capable. This team hasn’t handled adversity very well. We’ve got to get some type of mojo back.”

The most recent time the Gators were 0-3 in the SEC was in the 1980-81 season, when they eventually stumbled through a 5-13 league season (12-16 overall).

This season, the Gators have lost SEC games to Alabama, Auburn and LSU — teams ranked 15th, ninth and 12th, respectively, at the time of the games.

Wednesday’s 64-58 home defeat against No. 12 LSU was winnable after a strong comeback. With LSU starting guard Xavier Pinson out and big men Tari Eason and Efton Reid fouling out in the second half, Florida cut the Tigers’ lead to two.

However, the Gators missed seven of nine free throws late and 11 of 22 for the game.

South Carolina has lost to two SEC teams that are ranked — No. 9 Auburn and No. 22 Tennessee — and ball security and a lack of production from the Gamecocks’ big men were major issues Tuesday in the 66-46 loss to the Volunteers.

Coach Frank Martin’s group committed 23 turnovers — 12 in a close first half — and saw the defensive-minded Vols lock down the paint in Knoxville, Tenn.

“We’re up 22-20 with 1:30 to go in the half, and by halftime we’re down six,” Martin said. “We just had too many turnovers. If we don’t turn the ball over 12 times in the first half, we’d be in good shape.”

Winners of seven of eight on its home court, South Carolina scored just 16 points in the paint and shot 35 percent from the field in the road loss.

“(Early in the second half) we’re down 12 to the best defensive team in the country,” Martin added. “That’s a tough hill to climb.”

–Field Level Media

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