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January 15, 2011With 1:09 remaining, Erving Walker had a chance to complete the comeback.
Walker, who is shooting 77 percent on free throws this season, stood at the line with Florida down by one to South Carolina and the chance to give UF its first lead of the second half.
Instead, he missed the front end of the one-and-one, USC forward Sam Muldrow hit a 3-pointer on the next possession, and the Gamecocks (11-5, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) beat the Gators 72-69 in the O'Connell Center on Saturday afternoon.
"I thought the thing that killed us the last four or five minutes of the game was we didn't make free throws," UF coach Billy Donovan said.
Center Vernon Macklin and forward Chandler Parsons also missed free throws late, keeping Florida from coming back after falling behind by as much as 12 points in the second half. And as a team, UF (13-4, 2-1 SEC) shot 12-of-22 from the line for the game and missed six of its 10 attempts in the second half.
"It's frustrating, it's such a little part of the game that impacts so big," said Parsons, who is now shooting 53 percent from the line this year.
In the first half, the Gators couldn't reliably convert on any of their shots -- free throws, lay-ups, mid-range jump shots or 3-pointers. They went into the locker room down by 10 after shooting just 27 percent from the field.
Freshman Patric Young kept the team afloat with the best performance of his short career, scoring 12 and grabbing five rebounds in 19 minutes of play.
Though Young converted five of his six shot attempts, he said Muldrow's defensive presence was responsible for UF's miserable first-half offense.
"When you got a Muldrow, a guy who blocks so many shots, he alters so many shots too," Young said of the SEC's second-leading shot blocker.
Muldrow blocked three shots in the game, and USC's freshman point guard Bruce Ellington carried his team offensively, scoring 23 points including his team's final six.
Ellington, 5-foot-9, like Walker is an undersized guard for the SEC, but he showed off his complete game by going for more than 20 for the sixth time this season.
"He's a great guard," Walker said. "He's quick, strong. He's got a mid-range game, three-point game. He's a great player."
Donovan was upset with his team's defensive effort, as he has been even during the team's recent five-game win streak.
UF had been much better offensively during that stretch, but Donovan warned that his team can't continue to win games if they let their defensive focus slip.
"Ever since we started making some shots, our defense has really dropped off and people didn't notice because the ball was going in the basket," Donovan said.
Parsons said the team needs to get back to getting stops, rebounding and making free throws before its next game with Auburn on Thursday.
Forward Erik Murphy was expected to make his return after missing three games with a right foot injury, but Donovan didn't feel comfortable using him with UF playing from behind the entire game. Murphy had been limited in practice the last two days and Donovan felt Auburn would be a better time for him to play after practicing at full strength this coming week.