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Michael Frazier's 11 3-pointers lifted No. 1-ranked Florida past South Carolina.

Tuesday March 4, 2014Frazier Scores 37, Tops Gamecocks (SEC Record Book) With Deadly 3-Point Display

Michael Frazier's 11 3-pointers lifted No. 1-ranked Florida past South Carolina.

Chris Harry
By Chris Harry
GatorZone.com Senior Writer

COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Eventually, they had to guard Michael Frazier II, didn't they?

That’s what everybody inside Colonial Life Arena either was thinking to themselves or screaming out loud at the home team Tuesday night.

Yet there was Frazier, the Florida sophomore guard on his way to a shooting performance for the Southeastern Conference record books, set up all by himself and swishing another wide-open 3-point shot from the corner.

Never mind the two South Carolina defenders glued at the top of the key to Dorian Finney-Smith, who’d made one shot on the night.

“For us to get Michael Frazier as many open 3s as we can, that's what we want," senior center Patric Young said. "If we can get that 60 possessions a game, we'll live with that. So we were amazed how open he was getting the whole game."

No doubt Frazier was, too. His last trey of the game was his 11th of the night and pushed him toward a career-high 37 points that by itself was nearly enough for the No. 1 Gators to top the Gamecocks 72-46 and treat the crowd of 12,781 to a shooting clinic that instantly took its place in the UF and SEC record books.

“I kind of got in the zone, but I never really felt anything,” said Frazier, who came in averaging 12.2 points per game and whose previous career high was 21 against Texas A&M last month. “I don’t know. I was just kind of there.”

Was he ever.

Frazier went 11-for-18 from 3-point range and not only equaled the most points ever scored by a UF player under Coach Billy Donovan (tying Joakim Noah's 37 versus Georgia on March 1, 2006), but broke the record of nine 3-pointers in an SEC game that had been set eight times, including by the likes of LSU’s Chris Jackson, Kentucky’s Tony Delk and Tennessee’s Chris Lofton.

“Phenomenal,” UF coach Billy Donovan said.

The same, of course, could be said for the Gators (28-2, 17-0) after extending their school record for consecutive wins to 22 -- including nine straight on the road -- and putting themselves in position to play for an unbeaten SEC season Saturday against Kentucky in the final home game for this amazing senior class.

Each of those four seniors was in awe of the performance their underclassman brother put on against the Gamecocks (11-19, 4-13).

“What did I think when I saw him shoot?” senior forward Will Yeguete asked back. “That it was going in.”

Added senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin: “To be honest, I didn’t really know how many he was hitting. If I had guessed, I probably would have said five or six. But then when I saw him catch the ball and set himself, I think it hit me ... he wasn’t missing.”

Good thing too because his teammates weren’t making.

All told, Florida went 11-for-31 from the arc, which means Gators not named Frazier finished 0-for-13.

And they won by 26.

“Somehow, we did not express to our players that Michael Frazier shoots the basketball," South Carolina coach Frank Martin said. "Our scouting report said they have one guy who shoots 3s. ... We usually don't get beat by one player and we're usually good with identifying strengths -- but we never even got to him."

After Frazier’s 37, the next-closest UF scorer was Young with nine points, followed by senior forward Casey Prather, who finished with seven points, five rebounds and four steals. Wilbekin, probably the favorite to be named 2014 SEC Player of the Year, finished with two points on 1-for-7 from the floor, 0-for-6 from deep, four assists and three turnovers.

And, to repeat, the Gators won by 26, easily besting their previous largest margin of victory in an SEC road game this season (11 at Mississippi State on Jan. 30).

“It kind of jumps out at you,” Donovan said of the box score.

The formula was simple: Frazier and defense in the second half.

UF’s lead at the break was a precarious 28-26, with South Carolina crushing the Gators on the boards 22-12 (nine on the offensive glass) over the first 20 minutes. And even though the Gators inched out to an 11-point lead five minutes into the second half, when USC guard Brenton Williams converted a 4-point play and then nailed another 3-point shot right after, Florida’s lead was just 39-35 with 11 minutes remaining.

Then Frazier made a 3 at the 10:56 mark. He made another at 10:04, another at 8:34 and another at 7:38. The last one capped an 18-0 run over barely three minutes and put the Gators up by 22.

It was a game, then it wasn’t.

“That’s exactly what it felt like,” Wilbekin said. “ 'Fraiz' was doing all our scoring and we were all playing great defense.”

UF forced a season-high 17 turnovers, working almost exclusively from its fullcourt pressure.

"They don't make mistakes, they don't get flustered," Martin said. "They bait you into dribbling into certain areas, and when you do they attack you like pirahnas."

The Gamecocks, led by forward Mindaugas Kacinas’ 12 points and eight rebounds, shot just 22.7 percent in the second half. Their five field goals for the period (on 22 attempts) were one less than Frazier’s six second-half treys.

“My teammates just kept finding me,” Frazier said.

That was way better than the South Carolina defense did. Some of his second-half bombs must have felt like free throws, with no Gamecock within 10 or 15 feet. The Gators did a good job of moving the ball, making the USC defense rotate and eventually break down in its coverage.

The rest, well, was history.

Literally.

“I may have had a game like this in high school, but it’s not the same,” said Frazier, who starred at Tampa Plant for three years before finishing his prep career at Montverde Academy. “This is college. We’re on the road in the SEC. You have to play defense. You have be locked in.”

On this night, he was locked and loaded.

Anyone could see that, right?

 

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