The third-ranked Florida Gators (20-2, 9-0 SEC) overcame a halftime deficit to beat the Missouri Tigers (16-6, 4-5 SEC) by 10, 68-58. Scottie Wilbekin scored a career high 19 points, making 13 of 16 free throws, to lead all scorers. But the loudest cheers of the night went to super freshman Chris Walker. Walker entered the game with 11:28 left in the first half and scored his first points on a lob from fellow freshman Kasey Hill. Walker finished with 4 points, both lobs from Hill, 2 rebounds, and two blocks. Check out Walker’s first points as a Gator:
Florida didn’t have their best offensive effort, but recording 15 assists on 19 made field goals is something that Billy Donovan can be proud of. The Gators played unselfishly with Hill putting up 6 dimes and Wilbekin getting 4 helpers. Hill didn’t shoot a field goal, but did have 4 points and 3 rebounds, including one offensive, in 21 solid minutes. Patric Young put in a strong effort, scoring 13 points with 6 rebounds, 2 assists, and 1 block. Michael Frazier II was the only other Gator in double-digit scoring, hitting four 3-pointers in a row to get to get to 14 points along with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, 1 steal, and 1 block. Florida struggled on offense at times and shot 44.3% from the field, including 30% from long-range. On the plus side, the Gators shot 72.7% (24-33) from the charity stripe, led by Wilbekin. Florida added 12 offensive rebounds, 4 by Dorian Finney-Smith alone. Missouri did beat them on the offensive glass, however, with 13 offensive boards.
Meanwhile, on the defensive end, Florida bottled up Missouri’s trio of scorers to only 32 combined points. Jabari Brown led the way for the Tigers with 15 points with Jordan Clarkson scoring 14 points. Earnest Ross was held to only 3 points on the game. Brown, Clarkson, and Ross are all top 3 in the SEC in scoring. Overall, the Gators held the Tigers to 39.6% shooting, limiting Mizzou to 38.1% from three-point range. Florida turned Missouri over 12 times and out-rebounded the Tigers 33-32.
Florida continued a disturbing trend, failing to hit 70 points in their sixth straight game. But the Gators also continued many other good streaks. Florida extended their school record home winning streak to 28 games, won their 14th consecutive overall, broke a school record with their 14th straight SEC win, and won 20 games for the 16th year in a row. The Gators haven’t been 20-2 since their National Championship seasons in 2006 and 2007, which may bode well for Florida fans. There are many similarities between those championship teams and this team and it starts with unselfishness. The one difference: There aren’t three NBA Draft Lottery picks starting on this team.
Florida has some time to rest before finishing up their three game home stand against Alabama (9-12, 3-5 SEC) Saturday. The Gators defeated the Crimson Tide in Tuscaloosa just two and half weeks ago, 68-62. The game starts at noon in the O’Connell Center. If you can’t make it to the game, you can catch it on ESPN.