The Florida Gators basketball team ended their regular season on a high note with a win on Saturday evening over the Missouri Tigers. UF hit the ground running to pull together a road win with a final score of 82-72 that snapped a four-game losing streak.
In the first few minutes of the game, neither team could buy a basket. It wasn’t until 18:29 when the Gators took the lead with back-to-back baskets from Dorian Finney-Smith and John Egbunu. This start helped fuel a game with energy we have not seen from Florida in a while – especially on the defense. The Gators had five blocks in the first half alone while the Tigers were unable to block any shots.
From there, Mizzou just could not slow down Florida or make any of their shots go in – a fatal combination. In the first half, only 35% of their shots were able to catch the net. It also was not helping that Gator sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza finally found his groove after a slump over the past few games as he dished out seven assists, five points and four rebounds n the first half alone.
This left the Tigers battling to find some sort of rhythm, but they could not find an answer for Florida. This allowed the Gators to run off with the lead and end the half 18 points ahead of the home team at 46-28.
Coming back from the locker room, Mizzou came ready to make this a basketball game instead of a blow out with a quick jumper and a free throw to cut down Florida’s 18-point lead to 15. However, Chiozza was not ready to let the Tigers catch any sort of momentum as he answered with a basket from downtown to put their lead right back at 18 with 19:39 left to play.
That was just the beginning for Cheese as he made the next two baskets for Florida, making for two three-point baskets and a layup in three minutes. Florida continued to dominate Missouri and managed to pull away peaking at a 21-point lead on two occasions. The second time the score was at 64-43 with 12:42 to go, making it look like the Gators had this one in the bag.
It seems that Florida got too comfortable with their large lead as Mizzou slowly started cutting in to their lead in the remainder of the game. The Tigers were able to come within 10 points of the Gators it at 75-65 with 3:03 to go, giving them a chance to turn the game around.
Finney-Smith tried to slow down the momentum that the Tigers were picking up with a slam dunk that also gave him a 20-point game. This brought Florida’s lead back to 12 points until Mizzou fired off a 3-point basket to bring them to a single digit deficit with just 1:42 to play.
The Gators were now scrambling as the Tigers finally had a chance of taking the ball game. For Mizzou, it was too little too late as Florida managed to hold them off and bring their lead back to double digits to end the game at 82-72.
With the win Florida earned the #8 seed in the SEC tournament and will take on Arkansas on Thursday in the tournament at 1 P.M.