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Injury-plagued Gators look for revenge versus South Carolina

GATOR HOOPS

The race for the SEC regular season title gets tighter this week as No. 13 Florida hosts South Carolina Tuesday before traveling to No. 11 Kentucky Saturday. UK and UF are tied atop the league, and the Gamecocks are one game behind.

In their last meeting with South Carolina, the Gators were held without a three-pointer for the first time since 1992. When asked what UF has to do differently, head coach Mike White joked that the team has to go at least 1-for-17 from beyond the arc this time. He said it comes down to converting against a strong defensive team.

"We gotta do a better job of getting better looks," White said. "We can't allow South Carolina to speed us up as much as they did at their place."

Turnovers must be kept in check after UF committed 16 against Mississippi State over the weekend. The Gamecocks also forced 16 turnovers against the Gators when the teams met in January.

"The fancier the pass, you don't get more points for that," White said. "We just gotta be more sound. Gotta play off of two feet. We made a couple jump passes the other day with little guys. Little guys with jump passes -- it doesn't work at this level."

With the loss of 6-foot-11, 255-pound John Egbunu due to injury, White said every team member needs to help on defense, not just the 4 and 5 spots. It's even more important when facing the SEC's second-leading scorer, guard Sindarius Thornwell (20.2 points per game).

For backup, the Gators have turned to Kevarrius Hayes, who totaled nine points, 10 rebounds and four blocks in his start against Mississippi State.

"This is probably the most challenging run I've had so far," Hayes said. "Last year when John got hurt, we were already done with the SEC Tournament. Now, this year, we have the whole rest of SEC conference play to go, and then the tournament, then whatever comes after that."

Guard Canyon Barry is a game-time decision Tuesday night. He's Florida's second-leading scorer, averaging 13.2 points per game. He missed one game earlier in the year when he sprained his other ankle.

Meanwhile, reserve center Keith Stone is still dealing with balance issues from a viral illness he caught a few weeks ago.

Tipoff is set for 7 p.m. at the O'Connell Center.

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