Last night was another close contest for Florida basketball that was closer than many would have liked. The Gators entered the RP Funding Center in Lakeland as 15-point favorites to the ECU Pirates but had to survive a 70-65 contest to move to 7-3 on the season.
And while Walter Clayton is getting the bulk of the headlines for the Gators, Florida probably wouldn't be where they are if it wasn't for its ability to crash the glass when they miss.
Florida Basketball: Pound the glass
It was a bit of a homecoming for Clayton last night. The junior from Lake Wales went to high school just 14 miles from downtown Lakeland and had himself another solid night, scoring 22 points off nine for 16 shooting.
But the Gators as a whole were just never able to pull away from ECU, and even though the Gators never trailed in the game, Todd Golden and crew were only up by two with 20 seconds to play. Clayton hoisted a three and missed. An ECU rebound would mean the Pirates would have had the ball with a chance for overtime or even the win.
Enter Tyrese Samuel to save the day.
The grad student from Montreal brought down his fifth offensive rebound, dunked it home, and the Gators were able to close out and avoid disaster.
Last night the Gators collected 47.4% of their missed shots and ended the night with 16 second chance points to the nine ECU had.
Did we mention Florida won by five?
On the season, Florida is collecting 41.6% of their own misses, fifth best in the country.
Samuel is 29th in the country at 3.5 offensive rebounds per game and Micah Handlogten isn't far behind with 3.25 per game, 47th in the country.
What is remarkable is that this was a liability for Florida last season. Even with Colin Castleton, Florida basketball was 303rd last season at collecting offensive rebound, getting their missed shots just 22.4% of the time.
Expect this to be an area of strength next season as well, as the Gators will have 7'7" Olivier Rioux out of IMG arriving on campus.
And if Golden can continue to turn this into an area of strength, it will help avoid disaster nights like the one Florida almost experienced in Lakeland.