For 20 minutes in Columbia, MO, Florida, basketball had to grind out possession after possession with next to no separation from the Missouri Tigers.
And while in the second half the Gators didn't depend on some big dramatic run, their ability to clamp down on defense during a key ten minute stretch enabled Florida to pull away a pick up a much needed SEC road victory.
Florida Basketball: Defense Wins
What was quickly evident for Missouri was that the Tigers were a one-man show. Tamar Bates kept finding ways to score, whether it was from three, from in the paint, or from the free throw line. Yet despite the 16 first-half points from Bates, the Gators were able to ensure no one else would beat them, as the rest of the Tigers only managed 18 points.
But Florida wasn't able to pull away. Coming into the game we noted how opponents tend to score points from the free throw line at a very high clip against Missouri, but Florida didn't make their first free throw until nine minutes in, and only finished the half with six points from the charity stripe, a clip far lowers than what Missouri tends to surrender.
It was 37-34 at at the half in favor of the Gators.
While Florida ended the game as 12 point winners, it wasn't some big run the Gators made to pull away. Rather it was a ten minute segment of suffocating defense combined with just enough offense.
Bates gave Missouri a 43-42 lead with 16:55 left in the game. It would take Missouri ten minutes to score their next ten points, and by the time Walter Clayton hit a pair of free throws, the Gators were able to open up 13 point lead that was never in danger.
Tyrese Samuel led the way for the Gators with 17 points and Clayton had 15.