After 15 games the Gator basketball team had faced a variety of teams including at least four that I think are NCAA Tournament bound. However they didn’t face anyone that was all that physical. The lack of physical challenges in the pre-conference schedule stood out for the first twenty minutes in the O’Dome Saturday afternoon.
Georgia was tougher, more determined and more aggressive throughout the first half of the SEC opener for both teams. As a result, Florida went to the locker room down by a point at 26-25. The Gators were not as tough as Georgia physically as evidenced by a ten rebound disadvantage (22-12), nor were they as tough mentally as a 2-for-8 performance at the free throw line would attest.
The Gators would have been in deep trouble if not for an 11-0 run that put the Orange and Blue up 24-17 with 5:28 to go in the first half. However the Gators wasted that run by scoring just one point… that’s right, one more point before halftime.
Donovan got his players’ attention during intermission and the second half showed us the kind of Gator Basketball team was have grown accustomed to watching. Florida outscored the much-improved Bulldawgs 42-25 in the second half on the way to a 67-51 victory. The Gators even made 7-of-10 at the free throw line to finish the game at an unacceptable 50 percent. It was the Gators sixth straight win in SEC openers.
Green Draws Lots of Iron
Taurean Green struggled with the physical play of Georgia’s Sundiata Gaines on the perimeter and the shot blocking of the Dawgs inside players. Green ended up making just three of 14 shots on the day and even had his consecutive free throw streak snapped at 27 when he clanged his first one of the day at the charity stripe. Florida’s junior guard did manage four assists without a turnover in 38 minutes, but this looked like the kind of game he had late last season when he got leg weary.
Lee Humphrey had perhaps his best game of the season with 16 points, including four-for-six from three point range. He also played 29 minutes with just one turnover.
Brewer Star of the Game
Still perhaps the biggest reason the Gators are one up in the SEC race is the play of Corey Brewer. “Spiderman” had a tremendous all around game with 19 points and ten rebounds for just his second career double-double and his first this season. Brewer added seven assists and four steals and blocked one shot (yeah, it was probably goal tending) that was one of the key defensive plays of the second half.
Joakim Noah also gave Florida a double-double with an anything but unlucky 13/13 combo. He grabbed nine of those rebounds in the second half to help the Gators pull away.
Freshmen Struggle in Limited Minutes
Billy Donovan got all of his freshmen into the game, but the four rookies looked like it in their limited time on the court. Dan Werner, Jonathan Mitchell, Marrisse Speights and Brandon Powell combined to play 16 minutes without scoring a point or grabbing a rebound. But they did manage to miss five shots.
Then again, Florida didn’t get a whole lot from the veterans coming off the bench either. Walter Hodge continues to struggle against better teams with no point, no rebounds and 2 turnovers in twelve minutes of play. He also committed three fouls, though he was credited with two steals in one sequence that started with him missing a free throw and ended with Corey Brewer making two to up Florida’s lead to 57-44.
Chris Richard played 20 minutes and had four points and two rebounds. That means the combined effort of the Florida bench was 48 minutes, four points, two rebounds.
Quick Glance Ahead
With one win in the bank the Gators stay home for a Tuesday night game with Arkansas that we will preview for you Monday afternoon, but it’s easy to see what the biggest concerns are with this team.
* Inconsistent play off the bench, especially Hodge and the freshmen
* Slow starts against quality competition
* Avoiding using Green 38 minutes in SEC games
* Mediocre performances at the free throw line
Still, the Gators are 14-and-2, 1-and-0 in the SEC… and that aint bad!