No. 401 was half the fun.
Five days after a wire-to-wire, end-to-end, milestone victory that had a raucous Gainesville crowd reveling in a high-profile romp, the Gators slugged it out in a subdued road venue with a far inferior opponent.
The result was a sometimes grueling 64-47 victory at Georgia.
“It wasn’t one of these free flowing, up and downs — Missouri was like that,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “That game was going up and down the floor. This wasn’t like that. We had to grind it out and did a pretty good job”.
A game that was half the fun, but also made Donovan equally proud.
“I’m proud of our guys because we gutted the win out,” he said. “It wasn’t a pretty thing were we were just coming down and everything was easy. This was a hard-fought, tough, tough grind-out win”.
A game half the fun and won in the latter half.
For only the second time all season, Florida trailed at intermission. The difference was a clock beating 3-pointer from Georgia’s Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. The combination of a hot-shooting Bulldogs team and a struggling Gators squad threatened a far greater deficit.
“I thought we were extremely lucky to only be down three. We should have been down double figure points,” Donovan said.
But as has been the case all season, Florida’s defense played a role, providing nine first-half turnovers. Combined with Scottie Wilbekin’s early 13 points, the added possesions kept the Gators within striking distance.
And that strike would come early in the second stanza.
“It all started, I think, with our defense,” Donovan said. “That first possession of the second half we had a really good defensive stop. We were able to score on the other end of the floor, and than I thought we got consecutive stops in a row.”
Though he credited the defense with initiating the runaway victory, there was one aspect that frustrated the Gators coach.
“They shot it very well from behind the 3-point line,” Donovan said. “They did it for the whole game. This was the worst we have played from the 3-point line — letting them go 7 for 12″.
A game half the fun, but still worth a whole victory and perhaps some valuable experiences.
“I think that was good for our team’s resolve,” Donovan said. “For them being a little bit more persistent, being a little bit more resilient and battling in these types of games.”