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NCAA Tournament 2017: South Carolina beats Florida, 77-70

The Gamecocks are headed to their first-ever Final Four.

The No. 4 Florida Gators and No. 7 South Carolina Gamecocks faced off Sunday afternoon with a trip to the Final Four on the line. These two teams are quite familiar with each other, having played twice this season. South Carolina won the first matchup, winning at home, 57-53. Florida won the second matchup last month by a score of 81-66.

The Gamecocks took the rubber match in the Elite Eight, knocking off the Gators, 77-70, to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.

In the first half, Florida’s offense executed well against South Carolina’s stifling defense. The Gators shot 58 percent from behind the three-point line. Justin Leon led the unit with 15 points, three of them coming from behind the arc. The Gamecocks still kept things tight, and trailed by just seven at the half. South Carolina’s Sindarius Thornwell, who’s been productive throughout the NCAA tournament, had 17 in the first half. Duane Notice and P.J. Dozier both had 18, as well.

In the second half, Florida’s offense slowed down significantly, shooting just 33 percent from the field, and the Gators didn’t make a three-point shot the entire half. A tip-in shot made by Malik Kostar gave the Gamecocks their first lead with 11:34 left in the game. The game continued to go back and forth as the clock wound down, with both teams exchanging leads.

Things were tight in the final two minutes of the game. With 53 seconds left and the Gators trailing by five, KeVaughn Allen scored and was fouled, which pulled the Gators within two, 70-68. The Gamecocks went to the line again with 50 seconds left, and South Carolina regained a four-point lead. South Carolina got a steal on Florida’s next possession, and the Gators were forced to foul again. But South Carolina was able to pull away thanks to Florida’s misses on the offensive end. A bucket by Notice with 11 seconds left sealed the Gamecock victory.

Thornwell finished with 36 on the day, and Dozier and Notice had 38 and 37, respectively.

South Carolina has officially made it to its first-ever Final Four appearance, and will face the winner of the No. 1 North Carolina Tar Heels and No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats.