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Updated: Thursday, January 8, 2004 1:00 AM EST
NCAA BASKETBALL RECAP
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(11) Florida 65, South Carolina 62

COLUMBIA, South Carolina (Ticker) -- David Lee totaled 21 points and 14 rebounds and Christian Drejer added 16 and 12 as No. 11 Florida edged South Carolina, 65-62, in the Southeastern Conference opener for both schools.

Matt Walsh chipped in 13 points for Florida (10-3, 1-0 SEC East), which has won six straight and 10 of 11 against South Carolina. The Gators, who have won five straight overall, erased a two-point halftime deficit with a hot-shooting second half.

Josh Gonner led South Carolina (13-2, 0-1) with 18 points off the bench. But the Gamecocks shot just 38 percent (24-of-63) from the field, going 5-of-29 from 3-point range.

The loss was South Carolina's first in nine home games this season.

"South Carolina came into tonight's basketball game with great energy and they were ready to play," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "They played a lot better than we did. At the end, we got a couple of plays to go our way."

A very tight first half was capped by a basket by South Carolina's Tre Kelley and gave the Gamecocks a 29-27 edge. The Gators fought back at the start of the second half and led 47-37 following Lee's basket with 12:18 to go.

South Carolina responded and went on a 16-5 burst, taking a 53-52 lead on bucket by Gonner with 8:20 remaining. The teams traded baskets and the game was tied, 57-57, with 4:58 left when Lee had a jumper to give Florida the lead for good.

Lee then found Lee Humphrey for a layup 26 seconds later to push the lead to four. Gonner countered with a 3-pointer but missed three shots from beyond the arc down the stretch that would have given the Gamecocks the lead.

"Lee had a great game and he really helped us out and another guy who stepped up was Christian Drejer," Donovan said.

"We had a chance to win or tie the game at the end," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. "I thought we belonged here tonight, I thought we could win the game."

Florida shot 43 percent from the field (24-of-56) but made 14-of-27 shots after the break. Florida did finish 11-of-12 from the free-throw line.


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