The Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles met on the basketball court Friday night in Gainesville; the game was close throughout and a lead for either team never reached double digits but in the end, the Gators held on for a 67-66 win.
The Seminoles gave the Gators their most physical game of the season and that had much to do with the two Seminole big men, sophomore Michael Ojo who came in at 7’1″ and fellow sophomore Boris Bojanovsky who came in at an even taller 7’3″.
Bojanovsky finished with one of the best games of his career, shooting 6 of-6 from the field while scoring 14 points before fouling out with just 41 seconds left in the game. Ojo finished with 10 points, but came away with six rebounds and a block.
For the Gators it was all about the backcourt. The Gators were led by guards Casey Prather and Michael Frazier II who finished with 19 and 17 points respectively. Frazier continued his hot shooting from behind the arc after shooting 5 of 6 against JU to shooting 5 of 8 Friday night against the Seminoles.
Although the Gators had a couple of standout performances it was essentially a team effort that got them the win on Friday night. Despite shooting a low 2 of 12 from the field, redshirt sophomore Dorian Finney-Smith finished the game with six points, a team high 10 rebounds, and a steal and an assist as well. Looking at the frontcourt, senior Will Yeguete shot 2 of 7 from the field, but finished with six rebounds and four assists, while fellow senior Patric Young finished shooting 2 of 4 from the field hauling in four rebounds, with a steal and a block.
The Gators also received great bench production from the likes of junior Jacob Kurtz who finished Friday night shooting 3 of4 from the field, totaling five rebounds and an assist. Overall the Gators distributed the ball and gave many guys an opportunity to score. The Gators totaled five more assists than the Seminoles with 15, and eight of those came from senior starting point guard Scottie Wilbekin who shot an abysmal 2 of 12 from the field.
Despite the great size differential between the team’s big men, the Gators out rebounded the Seminoles by one but more importantly, the Gators finished the night with five more offensive rebounds. The Gators lacking size found ways to make rebounds into scrambles on the court, and fielding a smaller lineup gave the team success.
Overall, this was a game many would expect of a Florida-Florida State rivalry. The game saw 10 different lead changes and the game was tied eight different times.
Tied at 66 and the game clock counting down, Wilbekin drove the ball to his right side and put up a final shot with a few seconds remaining that connected with the front of the rim. Center Patric Young fumbled the rebound and the ball fell into the hands of Finney-Smith who was fouled attempting the put-back. Sinking 1 of 2 free throws, the Gators led 67-66 with just 1.3 seconds remaining where a last ditch effort by the Seminoles fell just short.
Sophomore Michael Frazier II talked about the tough victory.
“It feels great to pull a close game under our belt, to see how it feels and come out with one of these grind out wins, it feels good,” he said.
The Gators came away with the victory despite shooting just 38 percent from the field and only hitting 60 percent of their free throws. Moving forward the Gators are probably going to have to be more efficient from the free throw line in order to come away with close victories but Finney-Smith talked about what this win means for the team.
“It’s good for our team, we’re growing and I think we’re getting better,” he said.
The O’Dome brought in a packed house of 12, 306 and their presence could be felt in every meaningful moment of the game. Frazier talked about the atmosphere in the building and what it meant to the team.
“I think we have the best fans in the country; they are something else and they add another element to this arena. I think they helped us tonight with their energy and we were able to feed off of it.”
Now sitting at 6-1, the Gators were head straight into possibly their toughest stretch of the season. The Gators will next go on the road to face the Connecticut Huskies before returning home for their big matchup on December 10, against the Kansas Jayhawks.
For more reaction on Friday’s game from the players, click on the links below.