After being involved in three-straight nail-biters – two away from home – the No. 1 Florida Gators (27-2, 16-0 SEC) were able to take a breath and cruise to a wire-to-wire 79-61 victory on Saturday afternoon, taking down the LSU Tigers (17-11, 8-8 SEC) at the Stephen C. O’Connell Center in Gainesville, FL.
Florida clinched the outright 2014 SEC regular-season title with Kentucky’s loss on Thursday but celebrated in style Saturday as it extended its school-record winning streak to 21 games and continued a number of other program-best marks including winning 16 SEC games in a single season.
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: With under 12 minutes left in the game, Florida senior forward Will Yeguete found senior F Casey Prather cutting to the hoop for an impressive one-handed jam. Less than one minute later, Prather had another impressive finish when he corralled a left-handed alley-oop pass from senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin on the fastbreak for a highlight layup. The Gators increased their lead to 24 points with the basket making it near-impossible for the Tigers to fight back over the duration of the contest. Wilbekin scored 11 points on 3-of-5 shooting from deep, dished four assists and registered two steals. Yeguete had four points and five boards.
Prominent players: Neither player led UF in scoring on Saturday, but Prather and sophomore guard Michael Frazier II each took over the game in a half to help Florida to victory. Frazier went 4-for-6 from downtown in the first half to spot the Gators an early double-digit lead; he only scored once in the second half, finishing with 14 points and four boards, but was undoubtedly his team’s catalyst. Prather wrapped things up nicely for UF in the latter 20 minutes, finishing 6-for-7 for 14 points with a steal and a block.
Significant stretches: Florida achieved an 18-point lead with four minutes left until the break with a trio of long runs in the first-half. The Gators opened up the game 8-0, compiled an 8-2 stretch midway through the period and used an 11-0 run including three-straight bombs from downtown – two from Frazier – to jump way ahead of the Tigers in the early going. UF’s lead did not dip below 13 points for the remainder of the contest and eventually stretched to as high as 27 points with 6:14 left in the game.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
Extraordinary effort: Turning over the ball to LSU’s Shavon Coleman with an empty backcourt early in the first half, Prather chased down the ball thief and registered a clean block to negate a potential layup, eliminating the negative consequence from his own miscue and once again showing tremendous effort.
Bountiful bench: Led by a team-high 16 points from Gators redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith, UF’s reserves outscored those of the Tigers 28-2 on Saturday. Finney Smith drained 4-of-8 attempts from beyond the arc and reached double-digit scoring for his second-straight game after going through a massive six-game slump in February.
Standout stat: Florida went 9-for-14 from downtown in the first half, hitting more triples in the first 20 minutes than it did in all but three complete games this season. UF made 4-of-9 treys in the second half and finished with a season-high 13 makes from deep.
What it means: Taking care of business at home, the Gators increased their O’Dome winning streaks to 31 games overall and 16 games against SEC opponents. UF also ensured it will retain its No. 1 ranking on Monday as it looks to close out the season with two more games next week.
Next up: Florida hits the road for its final away contest of the regular season when it faces South Carolina in Columbia, SC on Tuesday. The Gators beat the Gamecocks 74-58 back on Jan. 8 and will look to remain undefeated in league play at 7 p.m. on ESPNU.