To hell with Georgia!
I’m going to start this post off by pouring a little salt on Georgia’s wounds with a couple of nasty stats, because, hey, we all hate the Doggies and it must have felt good to at least partially erase the frustration of the three straight losses to UGA on the football field. Then I’ll get to the nitty gritty stuff.
First, this 72-50 win makes Florida 18-3 against Georgia on the hardwood in their last 21 games, which, as you may have heard, was also Florida’s record against Georgia onto the football field under the combined stewardship of Steve Spurrier, Ron Zook and Urban Meyer.
Second, this is Florida’s 13th consecutive victory over Georgia in the O’Dome. Not since January 17, 2001, has Georgia come into Gainesville and beaten the Gators in basketball. Well, technically, they scored more points in the following year’s matchup in the O’Connell Center, but later on had to forfeit it (insert “Ah, typical Georgia” joke here).
So, yeah, Florida owns Georgia. At least in basketball.
OK, now that I got that out of the way, Florida has a lot to feel good about despite not really playing very well. The Gators just beat up on a team that’s certainly not great, but better than their 8-7 record suggests without their leading scorer (Casey Prather) and without their best effort. That’s a pretty good sign for the 14-2 (3-0 SEC) Gators, who are not always going to have the best shooting nights as a team.
It goes to show just how dominant this defense can be, holding Kenny Gaines and Charles Mann to a paltry 12 total points. They average more than twice that per game combined (26.3), including an 18 point effort by Mann in a huge upset win at Mizzou last week. As Tanner pointed out earlier today, Florida just needs to have an average night offensively to complement a stout defensive performance in order to win comfortably, and that’s what Florida got. Michael Frazier was cold for awhile, but heated up late to make his stat line look better than he really played (he was the game’s high scorer by far). Kasey Hill and Scottie Wilbekin had off nights, but that’s OK, because Will Yeguette and Patric Young chipped in double digit efforts to compensate for it. And of course, Dorian Finney-Smith had one of his trademark quiet solid games.
As poorly as Florida played at times (going nearly ten minutes without a single point from the field), the score could have been even worse. That’s the funniest thing about this game. Florida was up 70-39 with three minutes to go, but Billy Donovan decided to have pity on Georgia and chose to run out the clock instead. So Georgia cut a 31 point deficit down to 22 in just three minutes, making people who see the score in the paper tomorrow think that Florida gave Georgia a solid beating, but not a complete throttling.
This is all despite the fact that Florida could have easily lost this game with the aforementioned scoring drought. If Florida didn’t have the lockdown defense they have, Georgia could have cut into the lead significantly. Instead, the Bulldogs could only manage a laughable 11 points during the nearly 9:43 drought, which, if you do the math, is on pace for about 45 points for the game- even worse than the 50 points they actually did score, which is pretty bad on its own. So, to recap: during one of the longest scoring droughts of a season full of them, Florida was only outscored 11-6- all six points on free throws- and Georgia let their best chance to get back in the game slip between their fingers.
On another note, though, scoring droughts like that can’t happen. They just can’t. End of discussion. The Gators may be able to get away with scoring 6 points in 9:43 against Georgia, but they might not get so lucky against, say, Arizona, or Kentucky, or Wisconsin late in the NCAA Tournament. An offensive slumber of that extent will be fatal against the really good teams Florida’s going to have to beat if they want to cut down the nets. Somebody’s just got to get going before the entire game clock melts away and it’s too late- which I’m fearing might happen, since this has become a pattern.
It usually happens with Florida because the team falls in love too much with their three point shooting. Obviously, the prospect of getting your team more points than a regular basket gets is exciting, and thus very desirable. And for some guys, like Frazier, it can be very easy. All he needs is a rhythm and he can score 15 points in about four minutes, no problem. But sometimes the shots just don’t fall, and that’s when Florida tries to work it inside to guys like Young, he suddenly can’t get going. The unfortunate truth is, Patric Young is just as up-and-down with his back-you-into-the-paint-baby-hook-shot combo as Frazier is from downtown, which means that when he’s not hitting it, the inside game for Florida can actually become a liability. Maybe the answer is to try letting Will Yeguette do that move?
There were another issue that need to be addressed, too. The free throw shooting, for the most part, was horrible. Again. Florida was just 25-54, which comes to roughly 46% if my math is right. That’s a far cry from the 70% bar I set after the win over Arkansas on Saturday, and it needs to get better immediately, so Florida can waltz into March sporting a free throw percentage that they can feel confident about. Now, if Florida shoots 69%, am I gonna whine about it? Obviously not, but anything below 50% is completely unacceptable- especially with 54 attempts from the line. Think about that. Florida left 29 points at the line tonight. On a more realistic note, if Florida shoots 73% from the line against Georgia like they did against Arkansas, that’s 17 additional points Florida could have had- and the final score is a much more convincing 89-50, which I think more accurately represents the talent gap between these two basketball teams.
In any case, it’s good that this kind of stuff is happening early in the season, instead of late. There’s time to correct these problems. And remember, all this was without Casey Prather, who may have been the sparkplug to ignite the Gators during their horrid scoring drought that spanned nearly a quarter of the game before Michael Frazier ended it with back to back threes to ensure that the Gators would break their own school record for most consecutive home wins (25 in a row at home for Florida, and going strong).