If you thought the buzzer beater against Wisconsin was all the clutch Chris Chiozza had in him then you would be mistaken, as Cheese had some magic in Missouri to singlehandedly win the game for Florida on the final possession of the game. With it tied 75-75 and the shot clock turned off, Missouri was dribbling out the final 20 seconds waiting to run a set in the final moments of the game, looking for a shot at the buzzer. When the Tigers tried to make a routine wing-to-point pass, Chiozza read it like a novel and shot the gap, poking the ball away and getting a breakaway layup with 0.1 seconds left to win the game for the Gators 77-75 in thrilling fashion. The way he read to offense and picked up off the pass, it looks like DBU isn’t reserved only for the football team. This important win on the road brings Florida to 3-0 in SEC play, and very likely will have them back in the AP Poll come Monday.
Spreading it Out
Florida had 5 players in double figures scoring which was necessary against the lock down defense Missouri was playing on the perimeter. The intensity at which the Tigers were denying ball reversal made it tough for Florida to run sets, which meant there were very few good looks at the rim so when opportunities came players needed to step up and for the most part, they did. Jalen Hudson was the high point man with 16 (more on him to come!) and he was joined by Egor Koulechov (15), Keith Stone and Chiozza (13 a piece), and Kevarrius Hayes (10).
Switching it Up
Florida played a switching style of man defense where players exchanged checks all around the perimeter. This style of defense made it tough for Missouri to drive the ball, but it made for a lot of difficult matchups for the Gators inside as guards like Chris Chiozza and KeVaughn Allen would get switched on to big men like Jontay Porter and Jeremiah Tilmon. I’m not sure if playing this switching style of defense is best for the Gators due to their small backcourt, but it can make things a little more difficult for teams with players that can really drive the ball.
Missouri’s offense came just as advertised, getting the ball inside to try to kick it out and get as many threes as possible. These shots fell for them more then not as they went 11-19 (58%) from behind the arc. Jordan Barnett was particularly special for Missouri as he knocked down 6 of 9 attempts, and many of them were tough looks at the end of shot clocks. I was impressed with how the Gators limited the Tigers’ 3-point attempts as Missouri was definitely looking to get more like 27 or 28 attempts up but the Gators constantly ran them off the line. A team that shoots 58% from three in a home game wins a hulking majority of the time, so give tons of credit to the Gators for grinding this one out.
The last five minutes in a tight game are becoming Jalen Hudson’s time to shine. His ability to shift guys with the dribble and hit tough jump shots are becoming Florida’s best option in the clutch, and his ability to finish an and-1 layup and get fouled on a 3-point attempt were the only reason Florida stayed in this game. The Gators need to continue to use him in tight games when the play starts to slow down.
Keith Stone followed up an excellent game against Texas A&M with a great effort against Missouri. Noticeably more confident then early in the season, he was physical down low against the Tiger bigs and made sure they couldn’t bully him into deep post position. He also showed excellent interior toughness by protecting the rim at all costs, getting 2 huge blocks on nearly certain Missouri dunks and preventing several others with intelligent fouls. If Keith Stone keeps up this level of play he could really be the x-factor for this Gators team.
What’s Up Next
Florida heads home to take on a talented Mississippi State team. The Bulldogs are currently having a great season at 13-1 (they take on Ole Miss this late afternoon, so keep an eye on that score) with their only loss coming in a close one to Cincinnati who we know is a talented team from Florida’s matchup with them in New Jersey. Though Mississippi State’s non-conference schedule was soft relative to most Power 5 standards, winning 13 of 14 games shows talent and poise so they’ll be entering the O’Dome with some moxie. It should be a good one, so mark this January 10 contest down on your calendar.
What did you think of tonight’s thrilling outcome? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.