South Carolina drills a three-pointer as the No. 5 Gators drop the SEC opener 69-68.
Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times, published January 8, 2001
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- South Carolina's Travis Kraft learned something about himself. Florida coach Billy Donovan hopes his team has too.
Kraft, a sophomore three-point specialist, didn't get into the game until 19.6 seconds were left. That was enough for him to hit the winning three-pointer -- estimated at 25 feet -- at the buzzer, as South Carolina opened the Southeastern Conference men's college basketball season with a 69-68 victory over the No. 5 Gators on Sunday.
"Before the game and at halftime, coach (Eddie Fogler) personally said, 'Travis, be ready, we may need you,' " said Kraft, 2-for-9 from long range this season. "When he says that, I'm supposed to be a shooter."
The Gators (10-2) played without injured starter Brent Wright, and leading scorer Udonis Haslem was held to four points because of foul trouble. But ahead 63-53 with 4:49 to play, they looked capable of winning.
Things looked promising when Matt Bonner, who led the team with 18 points and 15 rebounds, stepped to the free-throw line with 11.5 seconds left. But he missed one, giving South Carolina (9-3) a final chance.
"Maybe we played more not to lose instead of to win," Donovan said.
The lineup Florida hoped to have at the end didn't materialize. Point guard Teddy Dupay had fouled out. Haslem, Donovan said, was never a factor. Wright was on crutches with a stress fracture.
"I think this could help us down the road," Donovan said.
That was hard for Bonner and his teammates to think about: "We just lost on a shot at the buzzer. We just didn't make the plays we needed to make."
Bonner, who missed a one-and-one attempt just seconds before, missed a second free throw with Florida ahead 68-66 to set up the final crazy moments.
Kraft made the only play he was asked to execute. He inbounded the ball to Calvin Clemmons with 2.5 seconds left.
"I was looking for it right away," Kraft said.
Clemmons passed it right back, and Kraft swished his long shot.
"I don't know if it has hit me yet," said Kraft, who was swarmed by fans after the ball went through.
Kraft was pretty much alone for the shot. Donovan said coaches pointed out Kraft's three-point prowess, but "even if we had a hand in his face, when you make a shot like that, you've got to give him credit."
Fogler said his team was fortunate to win at the buzzer, "but luck's part of it. I'm more pleased with how down 10 we put ourselves in position to be lucky."
Jamel Bradley led South Carolina with 16 points, and Lucas had 15. In addition to Bonner's 18, Brett Nelson had 13 and Orien Greene had 12 for Florida.
"We just made too many mistakes here," Bonner said.