Playing strong defense and shutting out their opponent’s best player in the second half, the No. 2 Florida Gators (25-2, 14-0 SEC) have officially started the 2013-14 season with the best record in program history by defeating the Ole Miss Rebels (16-11, 7-7 SEC) on Saturday afternoon at the Tad Smith Coliseum in Oxford, MS.
Florida topped Ole Miss 75-71, extending a program-best winning streak with its 19th-straight victory while surpassing the 2006-07 squad that started its season with a 24-2 (11-0 SEC) record. UF also improved to 12-2 this season in single-digit decisions (0-6 last year) and 9-2 in true road games.
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: UF lost the half-high eight-point lead it achieved late in the second half, but senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin got it right back for his team with a runner off the glass with two minutes to play.
Prominent player: Wilbekin took a few too many threes on the afternoon, settling for long shots when the offense stalled, but nevertheless led the Gators with a team-high 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting (4-for-10 from deep). He also had seven assists though did commit five turnovers on the afternoon.
Significant stretch: Trailing by one with 8:42 to play, Florida took off on a 10-2 run that gave it a seven-point lead at 66-59 with 4:08 remaining. Senior center Patric Young led the way during the stretch with four points (two on free throws), improving to 24-for-32 from the line over his last seven games (.750). [Here’s why.] Young posted 12 points on 4-for-5 shooting with five rebounds.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Mauling Marshall: Rebels redshirt senior guard Marshall Henderson dominated the Gators in the first half, scoring 22 points on 5-of-11 shooting from downtown. However, Florida was able to completely shut out Henderson over the game’s final 20 minutes, holding him to just five three-point attempts (all misses) and no additional points scored.
“You’re not going to prevent him from shooting the ball. He’s just going to shoot it from wherever he gets it,” head coach Billy Donovan said. “A lot of times you’re at the mercy of whether it goes in or not, and the second half they didn’t go in certainly as much as they did in the first half.”
Standout stat: The Gators attempted a season-high 33 three-pointers on Saturday while only taking 21 attempts from inside the arc. Florida did hit 12 of those treys, giving it a 36.4 percent efficiency for the day, but a long stretch of misses in the second half nearly cost the team dearly.
Slump snapper: Redshirt sophomore forward Dorian Finney-Smith closed a 10-0 first-half run for Florida with a three-pointer. The trey ended his personal 0-for-22 slump from beyond the arc that dated back a full month. He did not hit another shot for the duration of the contest, finishing 1-for-5 with seven points (4-for-4 at the line), five boards and four assists.
What it means: With the victory, UF will in all likelihood become the No. 1 team in the country when the new top 25 polls are released on Monday. The Gators have also extended a school-record with a 19-game winning streak and remain undefeated in league play with just four games left.
Next up: Florida concludes its stretch of four road contests in a five-game span over 15 days with a trip to Vanderbilt on Tuesday. The game will air live at 7 p.m. on ESPN.