COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- Freshman Matt Walsh made a pair of big plays in the final 33 seconds and No. 7 Florida survived a last-second scare en route to a 77-75 triumph over Southeastern Conference rival South Carolina.
Walsh, one of the top first-year players in the conference, found Matt Bonner on a backdoor cut with 33 seconds left to give Florida (15-2, 4-0 SEC East) a 74-72 lead. South Carolina's Carlos Powell missed a hard finger roll 16 seconds later and Walsh grabbed the rebound and was fouled.
Walsh clanged home both free throws for a four-point edge, which proved key when Powell buried a 3-pointer with 4.9 seconds to go. Anthony Roberson, another heralded Gator freshman, hit a free throw with 4.6 seconds left but missed his second attempt.
Powell grabbed the rebound and headed upcourt, but as he reached midcourt the ball bounced off his foot and headed out of bounds. Powell regained control of the ball but his desperation heave at the buzzer was long.
"I really thought this was going to be a tough battle for our team," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They took it to us and I felt the game could go either way. ... I knew we were going to get South Carolina's best today."
Bonner led the Gators with 19 points and nine rebounds, Walsh finished with 17 points, eight rebounds and six assists.
"With the game on the line, they look to Matt Bonner, the senior, to win the game for them," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "It's a good example of the kind of leadership you need to win at this level. Matt Bonner is a special player."
Tony Kitchings and Kerbrell Brown had 22 apiece for South Carolina (7-6, 1-3).
"We need to grow from this game," Odom added. "We must play better. The competition will get better and we must get better."
The two teams combined for just seven turnovers in the contest.
South Carolina broke out to a 17-9 lead 6:01 into the contest but Roberson hit a 3-pointer to ignite a 14-2 burst that gave Florida a four-point lead.
The Gamecocks did not fold though, closing the half on a 25-14 run. South Carolina, which led 44-37 at the break, shot 58 percent (18-of-31) over the opening 20 minutes.
Kitchings had 19 points and eight rebounds in the first half.
A free throw by Kitchings gave South Carolina a 45-37 edge 47 seconds into the second half but Florida fought back and tied the contest, 57-57, with 9:23 to go.
Neither team led by more than four over the final nine minutes.
South Carolina made half of its 58 shots while Florida shot 40 percent (26-of-65). The Gators did make 10-of-27 shots from beyond the arc.
The Gamecocks missed seven of 18 free-throw attempts and 13 of 19 3-point shots.
Florida's Bonell Colas had 16 points and six rebounds in 24 minutes off the bench.