Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida


Spurrier wants Gamecocks focused on No. 3 Florida

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) Steve Spurrier knows the only thing South Carolina lost last week was a football game. He hopes his players understand that, too.

Spurrier said the ninth-ranked Gamecocks (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) can still achieve all their goals, chief among them taking control of the SEC's Eastern Division this week when they play at No. 3 Florida (6-0, 5-0).

Saturday's winner doesn't clinch a spot in the conference title game, but will have a stranglehold on the top with only a couple of games remaining.

Spurrier was a disappointed as anyone at South Carolina's 23-21 loss to LSU last week. Still, Spurrier thinks the team can rebound this week and take a big step toward winning its second SEC East championship in three seasons.

``If we're going to win our division, which we hope to do, this is a crucial game,'' Spurrier said. ``We all know that. I don't know how else to say it, except we'll go down there and be ready to give it our best shot and hopefully play with a little bit more energy from a lot of our guys than the last time we played.''

It's the third straight top-10 SEC showdown for South Carolina.

The Gamecocks moved up to No. 3 in the polls when they dominated then fifth-ranked Georgia 35-7 on Oct. 6 before falling at then-No. 9 LSU last Saturday night. South Carolina holds a 12-game win streak against SEC East opponents, a run that includes a 36-14 victory at The Swamp two years ago to clinch the Gamecocks' lone trip to the SEC championship.

Safety DeVonte Holloman said such a stretch against three top-10 opponents can be grueling. But ``that's what we came to the SEC to do,'' he said. ``Got a lot of good teams in the SEC so you've got to be ready to play your best and if you don't do that, you can lose.''

Players learn quickly if you lose, you've got to come in the next week ready to look forward, Holloman said, or you risk more trouble.

``You've got to put it behind you,'' Holloman said.

South Carolina's defense hadn't given up more than 120 yards rushing to an opponent in its first six games, yet was gashed by LSU for 258 yards on the ground.

Holloman said the problem was too many missed tackles, something he believes will be corrected this week.

South Carolina's defense also could be without one its starters in defensive tackle Kelcy Quarles, who Spurrier said was recovering from a shoulder injury and highly doubtful to go against the Gators.

The Gamecocks better tighten up their run defense - and fast. Florida is second in the SEC in rushing this year averaging more than 233 yards a game.

South Carolina also couldn't rely on its usually reliable running attack.

Star rusher Marcus Lattimore was held to 35 yards on 13 carries and Spurrier said Wednesday night the junior star might not start against Florida because of a lingering hip injury.

Lattimore will be missed if he can't go. He rushed for 212 yards and three touchdowns at The Swamp two years ago, a game that clinched the SEC East for South Carolina.

Spurrier hopes quarterback Connor Shaw can look downfield a bit more this week and open up some space for the running backs.

``Yeah, we need to mix it up a little bit better, somehow or another,'' Spurrier said.

Spurrier knows how to win championships, his statue outside of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium a tribute to his 1966 Heisman Trophy, his 1996 national championship and six SEC titles - all won at his alma mater, Florida.

``He's definitely a Gator great. I drive by his statue every day,'' Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel said. ``But it's not really anything that's going to bother us. All of our players here didn't play for him or weren't here when he was around.''

If South Carolina beats Florida, it has just two SEC games left against Tennessee and Arkansas - and both are at home where the Gamecocks have won eight in a row.

Spurrier knows full well the SEC champion - the league has won the past six national titles - will likely have a say in this year's BCS chase. First, things first, though, and that's making sure the Gamecocks won't look backwards.

``We're moving on from last week,'' Gamecocks receiver Bruce Ellington said. ``That game was last week. Even though we lost, we just have to focus on this week and focus on the task at hand. We have to go to Florida and try to get a win.''


AP Sports Writer Mark Long in Gainesville, Fla., contributed to this report.

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Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

Wizards coach Scott Brooks issues strong defense of John Wall after win over Clippers

After his team showed resilience in erasing a 24-point lead to beat the L.A. Clippers on Tuesday night, head coach Scott Brooks swept aside an opportunity to fire back at critics of himself and his team following a barrage of negative headlines in recent days.

Brooks did, however, take the time to address one particular angle of the whole mess. He issued a passionate defense of his star point guard, John Wall, who has been at the center of the controversies surrounding the organization.

Brooks and Wall had an altercation last week during practice that led to Wall receiving a fine from the team. Brooks spoke at length about the incident itself at shootaround. After Tuesday's win, he honed in on a specific criticism of Wall, that he is out of shape and not giving an honest effort on the floor.

"John, he's been taking hits. Let's face it," Brooks said. "You hear all the reports that he's heavy. The guy has seven percent body fat..."

"He's in great shape. I like the way he plays. He plays hard."

Brooks went on to point out how Wall hasn't been playing at 100 percent for much of this season. Wall has dealt with a deep thigh bruise and it's partly to explain for the Wizards' 6-11 start.

The overall numbers look about how they should for Wall.

He's averaging 21.5 points, 7.9 assists, 3.4 rebounds, 2.0 steals and 1.2 blocks while shooting 44.4 percent from the field. But his defense has been lacking and he's not getting the assists he usually collects because he hasn't had the same burst in transition.

Playing through injuries is always tricky for professional athletes. When people know they're hurt, that effort is often appreciated. But when the injuries aren't disclosed, fans and members of the media can only draw conclusions based on what they see.

Brooks explained in detail why he thinks Wall should be cut some slack for his start to the season.

"He's a warrior. There's a lot of guys that I've seen in my playing career that they love to sit out. They're just talented and they've got talented contracts. They sit out and you can't do anything about it. You admire and you appreciate and you celebrate the guys that play hard. You don't have to tell the world that he's banged up," Brooks said.

"He didn't say one word and I wasn't gonna say it. It's over. He's feeling great. He's fought. He's not gonna tell the world 'look at me, I'm sore.' He doesn't want your sympathy. He just fights and he plays the right way. He plays hard."

Brooks is clearly trying to stick up for his star player and change the current media narrative.

As long as the Wizards win, that shouldn't be hard to do.


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Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

Emotional John Wall opens up about trade rumors, coming arrival of son after comeback win

The subject of trade rumors and reports of in-fighting at Wizards practice over the past few days, John Wall proved his worth to the Wizards on the court Tuesday night. 

Washington trailed the Clippers by as many as 24 points, but Wall helped orchestrate a furious comeback which concluded in a 125-118 Washington win. Wall led all scorers with 30 points and dished out eight assists. 

After the game, Wall opened up to NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller about the cloud of controversy which has surrounded the Wizards this week, as well as a far more serious matter in his personal life: he's gonna be a dad soon!

"It's amazing, man. All the heart and effort and drive I've had for this organization, this team, to hear certain things like being traded, I try to stay focused," he told Miller. "Focused on getting ready to have my new son, trying to turn this organization around, this franchise around and win some games."

"All it is is go out there and compete, dog. All of us go out here and compete, that's one thing I always did since day one is give everything I got. And to hear those type of things, it's kind of funny. It's frustrating at the same time, but I've been through worse things. I just stand over top of all that."

And as his coach, Scott Brooks, has been preaching over the last few weeks, Wall believes the only way the Wizards turn around their season is if they show one thing: effort. 

"It's just about effort, man. Effort and heart," he said. "I've been preaching that since I've been here from day one, and in the second half we gave a lot of effort and heart. That's why we came back and fought hard, and got a great win that we needed."

"In the first half, we didn't play with no energy, no sense of urgency, and they beat the brakes off of us. We got to find a way to dig deep, and we made some big shots and got some big stops."

"It's not where we want to be, it's not where we started. Dealing with injuries, dealing with those type of things, you make no excuses. Whoever step between these lines, you go out there and compete, and that's all I ask for the14 guys, including myself, is to go play hard.

It's far too early to declare it as such, but if the Wizards can build off of Tuesday's performance, it may very well be looked at as the night Wall and Washington turned their season around.