SC Gamecocks eliminate Florida Gators in Elite 8, headed to Final Four for first time ever

The Latest on the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament (all times Eastern):

4:45 p.m.

South Carolina has completed its surprise run to the Final Four.

The seventh-seeded Gamecocks held on down the stretch to beat 4-seed Florida 77-70 in the East Region final in New York.

The Gamecocks' tournament run included upsets of 2-seed Duke — the preseason No. 1-ranked team — and 3-seed Baylor.

South Carolina joins Gonzaga and Oregon in the national semifinals. Kentucky and North Carolina meet later Sunday to determine the last spot in Phoenix.


4:25 p.m.

The all-SEC East Regional final looks as if it will come down to the wire.

There have been 12 lead changes and seven ties so far and with 5:27 left in the second half South Carolina leads 59-57. The Gators still have not hit a 3 in the second half (0-for-12).

Sindarius Thornwell made a tough shot in the lane to give the Gamecocks the lead. He has 21 points and three fouls.


4 p.m.

Florida was called for seven fouls in the first 5 minutes of the second half, putting South Carolina in the bonus for 15 minutes. Could be a long second half at the Garden with all those free throws.

The Gamecocks lead 49-48 with 11:03 left, with Florida going scoreless for more than 3 minutes and missing its last six shots.


3:50 p.m.

KeVaughn Allen, who was shaken up at the end of the first half, started the second half for Florida — and promptly shot an air ball on his first attempt.

South Carolina whittled the Gators' halftime lead to 1 as the teams picked up where they left off, trading baskets. The Gamecocks have trailed at the half twice already in this tournament.

Sindarius Thornwell, who has scored at least 24 points in each previous tournament game, leads the Gamecocks with 15 points.

Florida led 46-43 with 15 minutes left.


3:20 p.m.

Florida finished the first half with a 17-9 flourish to take a 40-33 lead at halftime against South Carolina in the East Regional final.

The Gators went 7 for 12 from 3-point range, led by Justin Leon. The senior was 3 for 5 and scored 13 points.

One thing to watch for in the second half: Florida's KeVaughn Allen, the team's leading scorer, seemed shaken up when he collided with PJ Dozier of South Carolina going for a loose ball.

With less than a minute left in the half, Allen was taken to the locker room by athletic trainers.

Sindarius Thornwell is carrying South Carolina with 15 points on 6-of-8 shooting.


3:05 p.m.

If only the Knicks could get the Garden sounding like this.

South Carolina and Florida are going shot for shot at MSG and have the sellout crowd — which sounds like mostly Gamecocks fans — rocking as if it was the Georgia Dome for an SEC football title game. Florida got 3-pointers from Devin Robinson, KeVaughn Allen and Chris Chiozza on consecutive possessions to take a 32-28 lead with 3:01 left. Chiozza's banked 3 as the shot clock expired stood up to a video review.

Chiozza is getting good at beating the buzzer at MSG this weekend. His game-winner as time expired against Wisconsin on Friday got the Gators into the Elite Eight.


2:45 p.m.

The shooting has been on target at the Garden.

South Carolina and Florida are a combined 12 for 20 and the Gamecocks lead 15-14 with 11:41 left in the first half.

But it hasn't been all offense. Some physical defense has led to 11 turnovers, seven by the Gators. The Gamecocks have turned those giveaways into 8 points.

Among those in the crowd watching the contest: NCAA President Mark Emmert.

— Ralph D. Russo reporting from New York.


2:35 p.m.

Well, things didn't get off to a smooth start for South Carolina-Florida.

Officials twice had to stop the game in the opening minute due to a bit of clock trouble. A TV replay on the second one showed the shot clock resetting to 15 seconds instead of the full 30.

The issue appeared to be resolved fairly quickly — knock on wood.

The all-Southeastern Conference Elite Eight game saw the football schools playing a physical game a little more than four minutes in, with the Gators leading 7-6 in a game featuring plenty of bumping and tight defense.

And the officials are letting them play. Only one foul has been called so far.


2:15 p.m.

Just how unexpected is this Florida-South Carolina matchup for the Final Four? Just know that it probably won't have any bearing on your office pool for bracket picks.

Well under 1 percent of those who filled out brackets on ESPN or Yahoo picked the No. 7 seed Gamecocks to reach the Final Four.

Gators support wasn't much higher — just 3.5 percent of bracketeers on ESPN and 1.9 percent on Yahoo picked the No. 4 seed. Lower seeds Notre Dame, Michigan and Iowa State all had more support to win the regional final.


2:10 p.m.

Florida football coach Jim McElwain made the trip up from Gainesville with his wife, Karen, to root on the Gators against South Carolina on Sunday.

McElwain says it is his first time attending an event at Madison Square Garden.

It will be a quick trip. He says he has a 7 a.m. staff meeting on Monday morning.

Steve Spurrier, the winningest football coach in both Florida and South Carolina history, was not at the game. A Florida spokesman says the coach is out of the country. Knowing Spurrier, he is likely somewhere warm with plenty of golf courses.

— Ralph D. Russo reporting from New York.


2 p.m.

The NCAA Tournament will have its Final Four teams on Sunday with two more games to determine the last spots.

And both games are rematches of contests played earlier this season. Southeastern Conference teams South Carolina and Florida face off first for the right to represent the East, then North Carolina plays Kentucky in the South bracket.

The winners will join Gonzaga and Oregon at the Final Four in Glendale, Arizona, where the tournament semifinals will be played on Saturday.

South Carolina and Florida are at this stage of the tournament in large part because of a game they played against one another on Jan. 18. It announced the Gamecocks as a force but also prompted a team meeting for the Gators that triggered a nine-game winning streak, which included a rematch win against South Carolina.

Malik Monk scored 47 points for Kentucky in a 103-100 win over North Carolina in December.

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