It was a special day marked by a stellar on court performance and a sold out crowd in Gainesville, as the No. 10 Florida Gators (14-2, 4-0 SEC) manhandled the No. 17 Missouri Tigers 83-52 in men’s college basketball. The Gators dominated in all facets of the game earning Florida head coach Billy Donovan his 400th victory with the university.
Scottie Wilbekin achieved his first career double-double, accounting for 13 points and 10 assists, and shut down standout guard Phil Pressey, who turned the ball over ten times and was held to a mere 2 points. Wilbekin credits the win to the team’s defensive tenacity, and claims playing in the SEC forces the Gators to turn their performance up an extra notch.
The Tigers (13-4, 2-2 SEC) played without senior forward and leading scorer Laurence Bowers for the third consecutive game due to a sprained MCL in his right knee.
In a win that epitomized the style of play Billy Donovan brought to Florida in 1996, the Gators pushed the pace from the opening tipoff and forced the Tigers to play from behind in the 40 minutes that followed.
Florida pressured Missouri on both sides of the ball, forcing multiple turnovers in the full court press and capitalizing on Tiger errors. Wilbekin’s layup five seconds into the game set the tempo for the Gators, as the team scored the game’s first 11 points in 3:23. The lead was bumped to 19-5, until Missouri finally gained composure and began to score on a regular basis.
At halftime, Florida led 40-23, with 22 points coming as a result of Missouri’s turnovers. Overall, 34 points were scored off of 21 total Tiger turnovers.
Offensively, Florida shined by driving to the basket early and often. More than half of the team’s first half points were scored in the paint. As the game went on, the Gators began to open up outside the arc and shot 8-19 from long range.
Erik Murphy led Florida in scoring with 15 points, shooting 3-5 from three point range and 6-11 from the field. Saturday’s game is the tenth time in the 2012-2013 campaign that Murphy has scored in double figures, and the fifth game in a row he has reached the mark.
Center Patric Young added to the electric atmosphere by contributing three of Florida’s seven blocks and tacking on nine points coupled with eight rebounds. However, Young was responsible for six of Florida’s 16 total turnovers.
Although his contribution of 13 points and six rebounds may be slightly overshadowed by the performances of his teammates, Donovan says he is especially proud of the selfless effort and grit Young shows on a nightly basis.
Only two players finished in double figures for the Tigers. Guard Jabari Brown tallied 16 points, and counterpart Keion Bell scored 14. Guard Phil Pressey was given little breathing room by Wilbekin, managing only two points with six assists.
Both on the scoreboard and the stat sheet, Missouri was outperformed by the Gators. Tigers’ head coach Frank Haith admits his team did not do nearly enough to deserve the victory.
The final minutes of the game showcased the dunking ability of multiple Gators, including Murphy, Will Yeguete, Young, and Michael Frazier II. Their emphatic conclusions to fast breaks rocked the rim, and the crowd of approximately 12,000 at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center rocked the arena with deafening roars of approval, which culminated in a standing ovation at the final buzzer.
UF’s 83 points mark the most points anyone has scored on Missouri in a regulation game this season. The 31 point margin of defeat stands as the worst loss for Missouri since a 100-63 loss to Kansas State in February 2008.
Next up, the Gators hit the road to face Georgia Wednesday night. Florida does not return to the friendly confines of Gainesville until January 30 against South Carolina.
Of course, you can catch all the action right here on ESPN Radio 850/900 Wednesday night with pre-game coverage starting at 7:25 with tip off set for 8 o’clock.