Mike Rosario led the early charge scoring 11 of the Gators first 13 points, Patric Young and Erik Murphy picked up from there as the Florida Gators (13-2, 3-0 SEC) cruised to a 68-47 road victory over Texas A&M giving Billy Donovan career win number 399 with the Gators. The Aggies, who appeared flat-footed after a huge upset of Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Saturday, kept it close for the first ten minutes or so of the game as they were active on the boards. However, the Gators used a 22-4 run over the last eight and a half minutes of the half to take a 35-16 halftime lead. The Gators cruised from there and were never really threatened.
Senior guard Mike Rosario, who sat out the last game versus LSU due to an ankle sprain and was a gametime decision tonight, came out on fire scoring 11 of the Gators first 13 points going 3-3 on three point attempts. He carried the Gators while their defense got their legs beneath them. Once the Gators defense got going, though, the Aggies really never had a chance. The Aggies Elston Turner scored 40 on Saturday against Kentucky. Tonight with Scottie Wilbekin hounding him he scored only 4. Billy Donovan was certainly impressed.
“You don’t see a performance like that very often,” Donovan said of Wilbekin’s defense on Turner.
Rosario finished with a game high 19 points on 7-15 shooting and added 3 assists and 2 rebounds. Patric Young had a big game finishing with 18 points and 8 rebounds, while Murphy finished with 16 points and 7 rebounds. Overall the Gators shot 50% (25-50) from the field and 35% (7-20) from three point range. Defensively, the Gators held A&M to 34% (17-50) from the field and 30% (3-10) from three.
Playing without reserve forward Casey Prather and with Murphy (broken ribs) and Yeguete (knee tendinitis) hobbled by injuries, the Gators did not miss a beat. Playing their usual style of active defense and patient offense, the Gators showed once again why they are head and shoulders the class of the SEC this season. They repeatedly forced the Aggies into long possessions and late shots often holding them to one shot or forcing a turnover setting them up on the break.
The Aggies were led by Alex Caruso who scored 12 and J’Mychal Reese with 10. Interestingly, after watching Turner hit for 40 at Kentucky, the A&M team didn’t score 40 until there was only 2:08 left in this one. Realistically, this may be the best defensive team the Gators have ever put on the floor. If not the best, they are certainly in the conversation.
In three conference games the Gators have won by 33, 22, and now 21 which is their average margin of victory for the season. Considering how well they’ve played with 11 different starting lineups this team might realistically be a potential Final Four squad, particularly if they can get healthy down the stretch.
The Gators have a short turnaround as they head home to face #17 Missouri in the O’Connell Center on Saturday. The team will be looking to go 4-0 in the SEC and give head coach Billy Donovan his 400th career victory. Tip off is 2 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPN and ESPN3.com.