Last Saturday, the Texas A&M Aggies sent their new conference a message by defeating defending national champion Kentucky on the road.
Apparently, the No. 10 Florida Gators didn’t get the memo.
For the eighth time this season, an opponent was held to under 50 points as the Gators rolled the Aggies on Thursday 68-47 in front of 11, 046 fans in College Station, Texas.
The Reed Arena crowd bubbled over with excitement to start the game, wearing matching shirts for an ever popular “white-out.” However it was clear towards the end of the first half that the team actually wearing white uniforms — Florida — would not keep it close for very long.
Senior guard Mike Rosario sat out Florida’s last game against LSU due to what Billy Donovan labeled a “grade one plus ankle sprain.” If Rosario had any lingering effects from the injury, he certainly didn’t show it, as the New Jersey-native exploded to score 11 of the Gators’ first 13 points.
A&M kept it close for roughly 14 minutes in the first half, as UF struggled in the rebounding and post-scoring department. But Rosario’s spark helped to pace the Gators who would close out the half with an 18-2 run in what is now seemingly a trend, as Florida has now closed out several recent first halves with long runs.
Coming into the game, the main point of focus for fans seemed to be how the Gators would stop Aggies senior guard Elston Turner, who went off to the tune of 40 points during A&M’s victory over Kentucky.
Turner was definitely on the court Thursday night, but few may have noticed as he recorded only two first half points, and four total. In fact, the Aggies as a team didn’t reach the 40-point mark until there was just over two minutes left in the game.
Despite their strong scoring run, it was the Gators’ defense which was the main contributor to Florida’s easy baskets in the first half. The Gators used the press to force seven first-half turnovers against the Aggies, and continually frustrated A&M, forcing them into several hurried shots as the shot clock continually wound down to its last ticks on seemingly every possession.
After struggling to find their big men during the early going of the game, the Gators rediscovered both Erik Murphy and Patric Young in the paint against a noticeably overmatched Aggies defense. Murphy and Young would finish the first half with seven and six points respectively, but it would be the second half in which both players would truly make their presence felt.
Despite A&M’s wish to slow the game down, the Gators would again take over in the second half, this time around finding their bigs early and often.
Murphy and Young stole the show in the second half, with both not only scoring in a variety of ways, but also by doing the dirty work as they each pulled down seven rebounds in the game.
With a comfortable lead looking rather permanent, the Gators coasted through the second half. The Gators’ shooting was far from spectacular as the team finished 50% from the field, hitting 25 out of 50, and an underwhelming 35% from three-point land, finishing 7-for-20.
Rosario would eventually finish the game with 19 points on 7-of-15 shooting for the Gators. Young came just one point short of his season high, chipping in 18, and Murphy followed with 16 points of his own.
With only a one-day turnaround to recover from their road trip, the Gators return home on Saturday for a highly anticipated showdown against No. 17 Missouri at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The game is sold-out and will be broadcast live on ESPN.