At some points it didn’t seem fair, as though the South Carolina Gamecocks (12-8) had been replaced by a junior varsity alternative. The Florida Gators (17-2), on the other hand, acted like the big boys they are and suffocated their visitors in the third largest SEC win in school history with a score of 75-36.
The problem wasn’t that South Carolina left their game on the bus—no, the problem lied in the fact that they didn’t bring it on the plane with them to Gainesville in the first place.
It took 2:44 for Florida to break through and score the first points of the contest on a three pointer by Mike Rosario, but once that shot fell it was merely the beginning of the end. Florida proceeded to follow Rosario’s lead with an 11-2 run.
South Carolina played a bad game, but the first half was particularly terrible. How bad, you ask? Let’s review:
The Gamecocks shot a mind numbing 14.3% from the field in the first half, only sinking three shots out of 21 total from the field, and none from three-point range. They had more turnovers (11) than points. To say South Carolina was anemic on offense would be disrespectful to those with that disease. They were putrid, horrid, abysmal, and any myriad of other adjectives you could use to describe a basketball display that was akin to that of fecal matter. To top it off, the only thing that helped the Gamecocks reach double figures before halftime were two free throws granted to them thanks to a technical foul called on Mike Rosario for hanging on the rim. The halftime score: 33-10, might as well have been 330-0.
Thankfully, their opponent exhibited the performance of a team more than hitting their stride.
The Gamecocks shouldn’t feel that bad because Florida’s style of defense is so stifling. You almost feel sympathetic for their opponents every time they advance the ball past mid court (assuming they can actually beat Florida’s press, which is sometimes a rarity). The Palm Beach Posts’ Jason Lieser drafted the following chart to show just how poor Florida makes teams look, and it’s a doozy.
Through January 28th the Gators have held six teams to their worst point differential vs. their season average and four teams to their second worst differential. South Carolina can be added as the seventh team to play their worst against the Gators, as Florida held the Gamecocks well under their normal output of 71.6 points per game.
That list is not made of the creampuffs Florida played in November and December; rather, it’s made up of mostly conference opponents. In fact, every conference opponent Florida has played has been held to either their worst or second worst offensive output relative to points per game.
Coming into tonight’s game in conference play, the Gators score 1.20 points per possession, while only giving up 0.77 points per possession to their opponents. That gives them an efficiency margin of +0.43 in John Gasaway’s Tuesday truth column, a weekly article of advanced metrics used to judge college basketball teams. (The efficiency margin is derived by subtracting opponent point per possession from a team’s own point per possession).
For comparison, the next closest team in the SEC in opponent point per possession is Ole Miss, with 0.91. The Rebels score 1.06 points per possession themselves giving them an efficiency margin of +0.15. For further context, last year’s Kentucky team finished conference play with a +0.26 efficiency margin.
But back to tonight’s PETA pamphlet worthy slaughter.
Florida- while close- did not play perfect. The box score does present 12 turnovers for the Gators, an issue that was apparently ironed out in the locker room at halftime, as Florida committed nine of those turnovers in the first half and only three in the second. As a team playing this well moves forward, turnovers could be their undoing on any given night, but that surely was not the case tonight.
Kenny Boynton and Mike Rosario led all scorers with 15 points each, while six Gators contributed eight or more points in the contest. The Gators combined for almost as many three pointers made (12) as South Carolina attempted (14). Florida led at one point by 46, forced 17 turnovers and outrebounded their foe 38-24. Numbers like that lead many to ask, is Florida this good or is their opponent just that bad?
The answer lies somewhere in the middle of that gray area as it has most of the season. One thing was certain, though, while the seconds ticked down on garbage time in the O’Dome Wednesday night: “The Gata boys are hot” as Joakim Noah used to say, and there isn’t any sign of them cooling off.
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