COLUMBIA -- It was just a head nod, and a silent two words. All Mike Holmes did was look at Zam Fredrick, turn his head in the direction downcourt, then whispered "go long," hoping his teammate read his lips.
It ended up being the most important wordless conversation the South Carolina men's basketball program has had in some time.
Those final 3.3 seconds were, as Fredrick put it, "perfect." The result was a stirring 70-69 victory for South Carolina over No. 24 Florida.
Fredrick's game-winning layup barely beat the buzzer, six seconds of game time after the Gamecock senior had missed a free throw that would have tied it.
"It's so sweet to be able to redeem yourself in that short a time, and be able to come out with a win, and not to have to answer that question about choking in the end," Fredrick said.
The next few months will tell whether this win vaults this program into prominence. For a few days, at least, the players who have experienced consecutive losing seasons, and a fan base sorely in need of a winner, can bask in a win over a marquee program.
The manner of victory made it all the more perfect.
South Carolina rallied from five points down with 35 seconds left. On the final play it went the length of the court to pull it off.
A matter of milliseconds changed the outcome. When Florida's Chandler Parsons missed the front end of a one-and-one, Holmes grabbed the rebound and fired downcourt to a streaking Fredrick, who took one dribble and made the layup.
"It was a perfect pass. I mean perfect!" Fredrick said. "There was nothing else that could've been done. He dropped it in in stride, (I) took one dribble and put it straight up."
Holmes said he merely looked at Fredrick, before Parsons' free throw.
"I was trying to get his attention," Holmes said. "He read my lips. I told him to go long."
It appeared to be a defensive breakdown by Florida, which didn't have a player back to defend Fredrick. But coach Billy Donovan said his main concern was finding USC's Devan Downey, a former Chester standout, who had pulled the Gamecocks back in the final minute.
"We were matched up properly," said Donovan. "I just thought it was a great play by Holmes."
It broke USC's 10-game losing streak to Florida. The players and fans went wild, a few streaming onto the court.
Fredrick was going to be the goat before the play. Six seconds of game time earlier, he had missed a free throw that would have tied it.
"Zam has an incredible memory, in that he doesn't have one," USC coach Darrin Horn said. "He always thinks the next shot's going in."
It was the Gamecocks' second victory this season against a ranked team, joining the Jan. 2 win at then-No. 19 Baylor. Rankings aside, the Las Vegas line was actually a toss-up.
For 36 minutes, the biggest lead for either team was five. The lead changed nine times with nine ties. The last change was the most dramatic in a long time at this arena.
That it all started with six seconds left was only appropriate. Last year on this same court, USC twice lost leads against SEC teams with six seconds left. The memory of those bitter losses to Vanderbilt and Mississippi State lingered for Fredrick, whose defense, along with Downey, was pointed to as part of the breakdown in those losses.
It was the surest sign yet that this group of players had grown from those losses. Or maybe karma was swinging back their way.
"We paid a price in the summer," Fredrick said. "In halftime and in huddles, we always said we paid the price. We deserve to win games like this."