The Florida Gator men’s basketball team wins its fourth straight game with an 86-60 win at Jacksonville Monday night.
Just a few days ago we learned that senior guard Scottie Wilbekin had been officially reinstated to the Gator team. However it was unclear how much we would see him play. Gators head coach Billy Donovan made it clear early as Wilbekin was named the starting point guard against the Dolphins. Donovan believed the only way to get his senior acclimated to the game was giving him the full starter’s minutes.
It was clear early on for the Gators that unlike the Middle Tennessee game the offense could look a lot more organized and efficient. On Monday night the Gators ran up and down the court seemingly unstoppable against an overmatched Dolphins team. With Wilbekin taking the ball up the court, plays became simpler; everyone had their jobs and did them accordingly.
One statistic that changed drastically with the senior point guard in the game was assists. On Thursday the Gators managed just two assists in the first half against Middle Tennessee and 10 overall. On Monday, the Gators had that number beat in the first half, finishing with 19 assists and that’s with many missed opportunities.
In his debut of the 2013 season, Wilbekin played 34 minutes, totaling 12 points, 7 assists, and 3 steals. Most importantly, Wilbekin turned the ball over just two times and Donovan talked about his senior’s performance on the night.
“I’m really proud of him; he’s played extremely well in practice. He is able to get us in and out of offenses quite a bit and a lot of that comes with his experience, and the games he has under his belt.”
Overall, this was a game in which the offense really seemed to pull everything together, and make many strides towards the future as the season progresses. The Gators finished with five players in double digits, with senior guard Casey Prather leading all scorers with 27. With Wilbekin back in the lineup, Prather never had to worry about creating every opportunity. The Gators showcased an offense that rushed up and down the court in transition and this really suited Prather’s game giving him multiple chances to cut to the basket. After the game, Prather talked about himself and Wilbekin being on the same page.
“With me cutting to the basket, having a great point guard with good vision, he can always find me,” Prather said.
The biggest difference for Prather was his ability to stay on the court. Against Middle Tennessee Prather struggled with fouls, and on Monday the senior played 33 minutes with just one foul on the night.
Elsewhere, the Gators received a huge night from sophomore Michael Frazier II who seemingly could not miss finishing the night with 17 points and connecting on 5 of 6 from behind the arc. Redshirt sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith took on a couple different roles in the game. Early on, the sophomore found his way inside and took advantage of the smaller JU defenders. Finney-Smith was also a beast on the boards racking up a team high 11 on the night.
Overall, the Gators played arguably their best game all season. The Gators shot 60 percent from the field overall, compared to the Dolphins 37 percent, while also winning the battle on the boards, the points in the paint, and the bench points by a margin of 33 to 13. The Gators seemed to take control in all aspects of the game and the Dolphins were simply overmatched. The Gators flirted with a 20 point lead for a majority of the game and a win was never in doubt.
If there was one downfall in Monday’s game was the loss of point guard DeVon Walker. Not even a few minute into the game, Walker came up hobbling on his right ankle. Walker was quickly replaced and remained out for the rest of the game. For a team that just got one guard back, another lost player is not something the Gators had in mind.
Now with the Gators sitting at 5-1 and riding a four game winning streak, they move into a very difficult stretch on their schedule that begins on Friday night at home against the Florida State Seminoles. The Seminoles are also sitting at 5-1 and have already knocked off one ranked opponent this year with an 85-67 victory over then 10th ranked VCU. The Gators will no doubt be tested for the first time in the O’Dome all season and they will look to make an early season statement.
To hear more from head coach Billy Donovan and the players on Monday’s performance click on the following links below.