Kicking off the Big 12-SEC Challenge with a bang, the Florida Gators dominated the Baylor Bears from the opening tip to come away with a decisive 81-60 victory. Starting the game by hitting 8-9 of their 3-point shots the Gators put Baylor in a hole too deep for the Bears to ever dig out of. Lead offensively by Chris Chiozza’s 20 points and backstopped defensively by Kevarrius Hayes and his 5 blocks this was an overwhelming performance by the Gators that will hopefully give them some mojo going back into SEC play.
The Gators kicked off the 2017-2018 college basketball with a big time performance at the Phil Knight Invitational that was punctuated by their ability to knock down 3-point shots. Today the Gators wore the orange alligator print jerseys assigned to them at the PK80 and seemingly were instantly back to the same shooting form. Going 14-25 from beyond the arc today was one of the Gators most impressive shooting exhibitions of the season knocking down threes from all around the arc. Jalen Hudson (4-6), Chris Chiozza (4-7), Egor Koulechov (3-3), and KeVaughn Allen (2-4) all got into the action with some sweet strokes that left the bottom of the mesh burning. Let’s hope this isn’t the last time we see these jerseys and hope it’s not the last time we see this quality of shooting.
Big Man On Campus
Although he’s often the smallest guy on the basketball court Chris Chiozza’s play today lead announcer Dick Vitale to declare him the illustrious title of big man on campus. Chiozza controlled every aspect of the game pouring in 20 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists while also providing excellent defense on Baylor’s star guard Manu Lecomte. Chris Chiozza has continuously shown that he is one of the best point guards in college basketball and he has become the most important player on the Gators’ roster.
If there was one problem with how Florida played today it was their soft interior defense against a physical team in Baylor that loves to pound the ball inside. Terry Maston (14 points), Mark Vital (11 points), and Jo Lual-Acuil Jr. (9 points) all got easy buckets inside on top of the smaller Gators squad, working easily into the low block to receive a pass to then lay the ball in with a soft hook. Baylor also used their size to win the rebounding battle though they were only +5 on the glass with 5 more offensive rebounds then the Gators which given the size and athleticism discrepancy isn’t all that bad.
A team that prides themselves on ball security, the Gators won’t be happy with their 12 turnovers today. Egor Kouelchov (4) and KeVaughn Allen (3) struggled to make some decisions with the ball and often got in trouble when they jumped in the lane before deciding what they were going to do, forcing them to lazily throw the ball away before their feet hit the ground for a travel. There were also turnovers off blown inbound and offensive sets, the kind of turnovers that might be worth some wind sprints in practice. In the midseason grind execution is huge and the Gators need to continue to fine tune their mental game to eliminate bad turnovers.
Yes, Baylor (currently 2-6 in the Big 12) is not a dynamo in their conference so you could brush this solid win aside, but remember that this Bears team played Wichita State, TCU, West Virginia, and Kansas down to the wire. Convincingly dispatching this Baylor team is a great sign for the Gators and shouldn’t be ignored.
What’s Up Next
The Gators re-enter SEC play with a matchup against the Georgia Bulldogs on the road. Last year the Gators beat Georgia twice, one being an overtime thriller that Florida won in Gainesville so this should be another hotly contested game. After giving up the top spot in the SEC after their loss to the Gamecocks Florida is hungry to return to the leading spot and it starts with this game against Georgia.
What did you think of Florida’s performance this afternoon against Baylor? Leave a comment here or post on the Gator Country forums.