The top-ranked Florida Gators (30-2, 18-0 SEC) overcame a slow start and rocketed past the Missouri Tigers (22-11, 9-9 SEC), 72-49. The first 30 minutes of the game were a lot closer than expected, especially after Mizzou went to double-overtime just the day before. But Florida really poured it on in the second half. The game was tied at 29 at the half, but the Gators outscored the Tigers 43-20 in the second frame. Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II both hit five threes to finish with 15 points each. Florida hit 12-of-21 shots from beyond the arc to put Missouri away and most likely dash the Tigers hopes of making the NCAA Tournament.
Florida couldn’t buy an inside shot in the first half, scoring only 6 points from inside the three-point line. Luckily for them, the three-point shot was falling. Missouri played an energetic and good first half to keep the game close. But unlike the Gators, the Tigers three-point attempts did not go. Mizzou shot 7.7% (1-13) from three-point range in the game, something they obviously would have liked to improve.
The Gators clamped down on the defensive end in the second half, allowing only 20 points. Missouri was only down by two with 10:04 remaining before Wilbekin led a furious scoring charge. Wilbekin was stroking threes, getting steals, and dishing dimes to give the Gators a 34-13 run to end the game. Maybe the defining moment of the game was when Florida was at the beginning of their hot stretch and Wilbekin stole the ball, lost it, then dove for the ball while it was in the Missouri player’s possession, got control, and called a timeout. Wilbekin followed that up with a trey to basically put the nail in the coffin for Mizzou. Scotties #HUSTLE fueled the Gators to the win.
Wilbekin had a solid game, showing why he’s the SEC Player of the Year, scoring those 15 points with 3 rebounds, 2 assists, and 4 steals. Frazier added 5 boards and 2 steals to his 15 points. Dorian Finney-Smith was the only other Gator in double-digits. The SEC Sixth-Man of the Year finished with 10 points, just missing out on a double-double with 9 rebounds, 3 assists, and 1 block. Casey Prather and Patric Young had identical lines with 9 points, 3 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kasey Hill had a solid game off the bench, scoring 7 points and leading the Gators in helpers with 5.
Florida shot 46.3% (25-54) from the field, assisting on 16 of those makes. The Gators also lit it up from three-point land, hitting 57.1% (12-21). When UF can hit their threes, they are nearly impossible to beat. And they’ve done that lately. One of the glaring weaknesses is from the charity stripe once again. Florida hit just 10-20, good for just 50%.
The Gators defense did their job, holding the Tigers to only six made field goals in the second half, all from two-point range. Florida held Missouri to 36.4% (16-44) shooting and turned Mizzou over 14 times. The Gators also kept the Tigers trio of scorers in check, holding Jabari Brown, Jordan Clarkson, and Earnest Ross under each of their scoring averages. Brown (19.7 ppg) scored 18, Clarkson (18.1) added 11, and Ross (13.5) finished with 9 points. Clarkson and Brown were the only Tigers in double figures. Florida also out-rebounded Missouri 35-30, including 10-4 on the offensive glass.
Playing games on back-to-back days and going to double-OT most likely didn’t help Missouri. They seemed to run out of gas with 10 minutes left. I had said that the winner of the Texas A&M-Missouri game would get demolished, and my prophecy came true.
Missouri and Texas A&M going to OT. Winner gets the right to get demolished by Florida tomorrow.
— Hail Florida Hail (@HailFloridaHail) March 13, 2014
Florida reaches 30 wins for the first time since the 2006-07 season and gets there by beating the same team that got them to 20 wins. The Gators video game-like streaks remain intact, with 24 consecutive wins overall and a 19-game SEC win streak among those extended. The senior class can see Walter Hodge’s record of 117 wins at UF within their sights, winning number 114 Friday in the Georgia Dome.
The Gators will get about a 22-hour break before getting back on the court. Florida will play the winner of the Tennessee-South Carolina game. Tennessee received a double-bye as the four-seed, and South Carolina has won two games in the SEC Tournament as the 13-seed. Tip-off will be at 1 pm at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.