There were rumblings in the college basketball world that the Florida Gators had lost their edge. Florida wasn’t playing with the passion of last year’s NCAA Champs and a loss at Florida State seemed to support that notion. The belief was reinforced after the Gators’ easy win over Stetson when Billy Donovan showed obvious frustration at his guys’ lack of passion during games.
Donovan no longer has such concerns, but the rest of the college basketball world can get back to worrying about the Gators chances to repeat.
Saturday’s 86-60 destruction of Ohio State might be the most impressive regular season victory the Gators have ever had. The Gators saw Buckeyes’ man-child Greg Oden block a slew of shots, but they continued to run the rookie ragged and got physical with him in the paint. When it was all over with, Oden was exhausted and learned the lesson that this isn’t high school any more.
Al Horford Comes up VERY Big
As of midday Friday Al Horford was still out for this game. After Friday’s practice he was upgraded to questionable pending a morning workout. By game time, Horford was champing at the bit and ready to go. The junior center ended up on the floor just two minutes into the contest and played 28 tremendous minutes. His double-double (11/11) was crucial as the Gators were able to keep at least one healthy and fresh big man on the floor at all times. It was the kind of gutsy effort that can propel an entire roster to dig deeper and try to match that kind of passion and commitment.
Taurean Green showed he continues to thrive in the biggest games, posting a superb 24 point effort. Corey Brewer was outstanding with 18 points, five rebounds and three steals. Dan Werner chipped in eight points despite picking up three fouls in about 45 seconds during the second half.
You also have to tip a hat to Joakim Noah who had as good a seven point game as you can have. Noah grabbed nine rebounds, dished out four assists and his energy was the biggest reason that Oden was sucking air most of the final 20 minutes. The game was close for most of the first half before Florida got on a run to take a 33-20 lead. It was 38-29 at the half but the Buckeyes scored the first nine points of the second half to even the score at 38. After the teams traded baskets to make it 40-40, Florida ran off seven straight points to key a 15-3 run that took control of the contest. The run ended up last almost ten minutes and when Corey Brewer knocked down a “3” with 7:20 to play, the Gators led the # 3 team in the nation 74-to-49.
Moving On Offers New Challenges
In the next two weeks we’ll see if the Gators will continue to play with this kind of passion regardless of the opponent. UAB is next in a week, down in South Florida followed by Liberty on January second. Neither game will be tough to win, but both will challenge the Gators to come to the court the way they did every night last season.
After that, the non-conference schedule is done, and the Gators will begin the 16-game SEC marathon. The conference slate starts with home games against a much-improved Georgia team on Saturday, January sixth followed by Arkansas three days later. A quick start in league play is crucial if the Gators want to pursue their first SEC Title in five years.