Fastbreak: No. 2 Florida tops Ole Miss 75-71, starts program-best 25-2 while eyeing No. 1 spot

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.

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8 Responses to “Fastbreak: No. 2 Florida tops Ole Miss 75-71, starts program-best 25-2 while eyeing No. 1 spot”

  1. Gatoralum88 says:

    Great win! Shutting out Henderson in the 2nd half was tremendous. He got their crowd going in the 1st half. After a sloppy start, Wilbekin came up big like he always does. Frazier was back on today. I love how he ALWAYS hits a clutch 3 late. Also, Young’s FT’s late were HUGE!!! BTW, Adam, GREAT story on Young’s FT improvement yesterday! That’s as good as it gets. Dare I say “18-0!”??? 14 down, 4 to go for the soon to be #1 team!!! Go Gators!!!

  2. Michael Jones says:

    Give our boys credit. Even when we don’t have our A game, we bring our A effort. LOVE THIS TEAM!

  3. W says:

    A few weeks ago, I recall Coach D talking about how tough the month of February is. Kids get tired, kids get hurt, opponents get better, and pressure mounts. It becomes easy, too, for a team to fall into a slump on both sides of the ball. To me, the last 2 games have been Florida’s “slump”- on defense, there have been more breakdowns and open shots than we’re used to seeing; on offense, we are settling for too many jump shots, and there are sometimes long stretches of inefficiency. The fact that we pulled out wins against Auburn and Ole Miss despite that says a lot about this team’s ability.

    I hope Tuesday at Vandy can be a slump-buster for them, as a 15-point win on the road would be great momentum going into the final stretch of the regular season. I think people will be skeptical of our #1 ranking because of how close we played these last two games, but the reality of it is that EVERY elite team this year has struggled with mediocre teams at one time or another, but we’ve been the only ones to come out unscathed. Heck, give us a full squad for the Wisconsin and UConn games, and we’re probably 27-0 right now. This last week wasn’t pretty, but I’ve still got championship expectations for this team.

  4. Joshua says:

    Another gritty win for this team. I don’t care who you are, winning a conference road game this late in the season is tough. I thought our team battled all game despite not having any sort or rhythm on offense. Today we saw another zone defense that seemed to confuse us. We need to focus on that as we prepare for postseason.

    Can I also say Marshall Henderson is one of those players you love to beat and hate to lose to. I acknowledge his talent and intensity and am willing to admit he is one of the better guards in the SEC but his antics are ridiculous. I think you can play with an edge without disrespecting your opponent. I think his behavior is exactly that, disrespect to the opponent and the game. Give me the calm demeanor of Prather over that crap any day!

    Go Gators!!!

    • Michael Jones says:

      I’m with you, Josh. I don’t care how much we win by. A win is a win. Ask Syracuse.

      It’s a long hard grind, we’re getting everybody’s best shot, and we’re winning games both home and away on character and toughness that’s been missing in recent years. Auburn played lights out, and Ole Miss played harder and smarter against us than they did against UK. These battles will toughen us for the tournament.

      As for Henderson, I thought the same thing. Being competitive and having a little class are not mutually exclusive.

      On the flip side, I love the way our kids handle themselves. Young got smacked pretty good across the face with what looked to me like an overly aggressive cheap shot, but he took no retaliatory action. That’s character and discipline, baby.

      GO GATORS!!!

  5. TST says:

    Rebels ‘Best’ shoot . Wasn’t near enough . Great game management by Coach D and trilling win by our Gators . Nice to see Gators raining 3 pointers all over the Rebels today !! What a team.
    GO GATORS

  6. Collegeballdude says:

    Henderson has to be the most annoying college basketball player in the nation. For sure the SEC! Thank God we won so I didn’t have to throw something at my TV when he most assuredly would have mocked the gator chomp like he did when they best us last year in the final of the SEC tourney!!

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