After playing to a stalemate in the first half against Missouri in the SEC Tournament, Florida pulled away late. Here are five takeaways from a sloppy Gators victory.
It’s raining threes
Florida is unstoppable when the parade of threes come pouring down. To give some season perspective: after shooting a lowly 34.3% from three-point range through their first 28 games, the Gators are now shooting a solid (and rounded) 50% from downtown (45-for-90) over the last four games. Today, Scottie Wilbekin was 5-for-6 from downtown, and Michael Frazier II was 5-for-7 – combining for 15 points apiece and an overall 57% from behind the arc. Legendary former Utah Jazz coach Jerry Sloan once said, “You can live by the three, and you can die by the three.” The Gators have lived by it of late, but maybe a bit too close to the edge.
Florida allowed just 20 second-half points, following a strong opening half performance by Missouri. After a slow first half of rebounding, the Gators finished with 35 boards on the day. They also forced 14 Missouri turnovers. Individually, Patric Young recorded another block in the game; he is now two blocks away from No. 6 all-time for UF.
This team is one of the most unselfish squads in the country. Dishing passes for good looks, getting open for a three-point shot, and recording assist after assist has become a cornerstone of this squad. Kasey Hill notched a team-high five of Florida’s 16 assists on the afternoon. Wilbekin is now just five assists away from No. 8 all-time on the UF leaderboard.
Free throws aren’t so free
Struggles at the line returned. The Gators were an abysmal 10-for-20 from the charity stripe – and that’s with Casey Prather going 7-for-8. That means the rest of the team was 3-for-12 (or 25%). This cannot be the recipe moving forward. The Gators absolutely cannot show such a glaring Achilles’ heel going further into tournament play (both SEC and NCAA).
Slow starts and strong finishes
The Gators started the game looking like Miley Cyrus at a cocktail party: sloppy. But, per the usual, the second half was another story and the rout was on. The game was tied at 29 at the half, but the Gators ended up winning by 23. They outscored Missouri 34-13 over the final 10:06, finishing the game on a 30-to-8 run. Regardless, the Gators must be careful about digging themselves into holes. We all remember last year in the Elite Eight against Michigan, when the Gators were down 16-to-2 early, 47-to-30 at the half, and couldn’t find an answer to get back into the game. They must come out of the gate as fast as they enter the home stretch, or painful memories from 2013 may haunt them in 2014.