Disaster was looming for the Gators in much of this game as they fell behind by as much as double digits but with it tied in the final four minutes the Gators were able to get the stops and scores they needed to come out on top of the Missouri Tigers by a score of 64-60. Lacking offensive rhythm for most of this game the Gators found themselves in a hole that was tough for them to climb out of but some difficult makes by KeVaughn Allen, Jalen Hudson, and Noah Locke who all struggled in the first half clawed them back into the basketball game. In the final possessions of the game it was a big play protecting the rim by Kevarrius Hayes and some rebounds in traffic by Keyontae Johnson that sealed the win, as well as free throws from none other than KeVaughn Allen. Missouri is a team that has struggled mightily this year and to have trouble with them on their home floor is not encouraging for the Gators but the way they were able to battle back and win ugly should say something positive about the team’s mental toughness.
By The Percentages
41.9% to 41.8%.
That’s both teams’ shooting percentages on Saturday and that slight sliver the Gators shot better might have been the difference. Obviously both teams were not crisp in the shot-making department but they had their opportunities. The Gators had some open jumpers that didn’t fall (especially from the injured Noah Locke) and Missouri was dicing up Florida’s defense in the pick and roll and that lead to a lot of open looks that they just couldn’t hit. The shooting efficiencies weren’t pretty but how close they were shows just how tight this game was.
Jeremiah Tilmon fouled out for Missouri after only playing 15 minutes and that was a massive break for the Gators. Early in the first half he put his stamp on the game with some buckets inside but some foolish fouls kept him on the bench and ultimately fouled him out. He is potentially the Tigers’ most important player and the fact he fouled himself off the floor was a big break for the home squad. He wasn’t the only one to foul out as Xavier Pinson, a starting guard for Missouri, also fouled out late. The way Missouri was able to battle down to the wire speaks a lot to Jordan Geist who had a great game and shouldered the offense down the stretch, but once again is not a great look for the Gators who should have been able to handle this game a lot easier.
For the first time this season Kevarrius Hayes wasn’t the player who logged the most minutes at center position as Isaiah Stokes got in early and made himself felt with 6 points. He ended up playing 18 minutes to Hayes’ 16 and in playing that many minutes showed his conditioning is improving. He has a lot of fans amongst the Gator country boards and I’m sure this will make them happy as this is the biggest role he has had all season. Down the stretch it was still Hayes in the game who did change the complexion with his defense but it will be interesting to see how both are used moving forward.
There was a distinct lack of flow for Florida’s offense and it was partially evidenced by the fact that they only had 8 assists as a team. The ball got pretty sticky at times and wasn’t moving the way it did against Alabama and LSU which were the two best offensive performances of the season. Part of it was the way they tried to play through Stokes on the block which naturally slows things down but it was also evidenced in their normal continuity offense. I’ll be looking for an improved effort in the next two games before the Gators have to play the big boys in LSU and Kentucky again.
Losing to Missouri at home would have been a devastating blow to Florida’s NCAA Tournament hopes and would have landed them firmly back on the bubble. I thought there was a general lack of intensity on both ends of the floor and that has gotten the Gators beat on multiple occasions this year. Jeremiah Tilmon and Xavier Pinson’s foul trouble bailed them out but this was not an encouraging day for the Gators. They’ll have to come out better in their next game against Vanderbilt.
But hey, four game winning streak!