There was little doubt heading into Saturday afternoon’s showdown that No. 17 Missouri was expected to be No. 10 Florida’s most serious challenger to a SEC title.
Well the road appears to another conference championship appears to be a little more clear.
Florida dominated Missouri from start to finish on Saturday, defeating the Tigers 83-52.
Florida’s win was significant for another reason as well. It marked coach Billy Donovan’s 400th victory as the Gators’ head man.
A raucous sellout crowd was on hand in the O’Connell Center on Saturday afternoon, as a packed student section fresh off a night of camping at the O’Dome energized the Gators from the start.
Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin took the opening tip and raced down the court for an easy deuce to open Florida’s scoring. It was the first of 11 straight points for the Gators, who would hold Missouri scoreless for nearly four minutes to open the game.
Although the Florida offense lit up the scoreboard in the first half, it was the Gators’ defense which acted as the main benefactor for UF’s success.
The Gators would score 22 points off of 12 Missouri turnovers in the half, and continually beat the Tigers at their own game, scoring eight fast break points.
Coming into the contest, the matchup to watch was how the Tigers’ up-tempo style would fare against the Gators’ stifling defense. Mizzou point guard Phil Pressey, the SEC Preseason Player of the Year, averaged 12.9 points and 7 assists heading into Saturday’s game.
Florida’s Scottie Wilbekin who has perpetually made a living off of shutting down opponents’ top-scorers, again put on the clamps, holding Pressey to only 2 first half points and perhaps more importantly contributing to Pressey’s uncharacteristic six turnovers.
Mizzou’s Keion Bell tried to keep the Tigers in it in the first half by going a perfect 3-for-3 from the field with 9 points in the half, but his effort failed to match the Gators’ scoring as seniors Erik Murphy and Kenny Boynton both matched Bell’s efforts with 9 points of their own.
The Gators would finish the first half with 58% shooting on 17-of-29 attempts, while the Tigers would finish with one of their worst first-half outings of the season, hitting only 33% of theirs.
While the first half was a successful one for the Gators, it was the second in half in which Florida really exploded.
The Gators’ started the half in similar fashion to the first, with a quick Scottie Wilbekin bucket.
The Gators hit a brief lull in scoring as the Tiger would slash Florida’s lead to 19, but after a monstrous Patric Young slam dunk to put the Gators back up by 21 points, the rout was officially on.
The Gators would go on an exciting 24-9 run to close the game, highlighted by several fast break dunks, from Patric Young, Will Yeguete and Michael Frazier.
Although Mizzou was without its leading scorer Laurence Bowers, there was no doubt who the better team was on Saturday.
Murphy would lead all Florida scorers with 15 points. Boynton and Yeguete would chip in 14 and 13 respectively.
Stay tuned for more to come from Florida’s big win.