Florida Gators basketball (18-13, 9-9 SEC) got a shred of its groove back, concluding the 2015-16 regular season with an 82-72 victory over the Missouri Tigers (10-21, 3-15 SEC) on the road in Columbia, Missouri.
Though the Gators’ victory does not necessarily help their chances of earning a bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, it does end a four-game losing streak for Florida and at least puts them back in the conversation as a bubble team with the 2016 SEC Tournament coming up next week.
OnlyGators.com breaks down Saturday’s win with nine quick-hitters.
It was over when: With time winding down and Florida’s 21-point lead evaporating to seven with a minute to play on the back of an 11-2 Missouri run, the Gators increased their lead to eight on a free throw and then saw redshirt sophomore center John Egbunu (nine points) block a shot in the post. On the ensuing possession, freshman guard KeVaughn Allen hit two free throws to push UF’s lead back to double digits, and a couple more gimmies from Allen before the clock ran out solidified things from there. Allen finished with 13 points on 6-of-6 shooting from the charity stripe; he made just 3-of-12 field goals and 1-of-6 attempts from beyond the arc.
First half focus: If only Florida had taken fewer threes. The Gators dominated the Tigers over the first 20 minutes, using an early 12-1 run to take a 21-6 lead and increasing their advantage to 18 by the end of the half. The only issue for UF? Twenty-one of its first 33 shot attempts came from beyond the arc. Whereas Florida hit 66.6 percent of its twos and 85.7 percent of its free throws (more likely to come by putting the ball in the paint), it only made 28.6 percent of its threes (6-of-21).
Welcome back: Redshirt senior forward Dorian Finney-Smith took too many triples on the evening (2-for-9) but was nevertheless an impact player for the first time in weeks, scoring a game-high 20 points while hitting 5-of-6 twos and posting seven boards on the evening. Also stepping up his game after a couple rough weeks was sophomore point guard Chris Chiozza, who hit 5-of-8 shots and 3-of-5 threes for 17 points with a game-high eight assists and seven rebounds.
Shot selection still a question: Florida went a not-awful 9-for-32 from beyond the arc, but it still took way too many threes on Saturday night. In fact, 57.1 percent of UF’s shot attempts (32-of-56) came from long range. That is simply unacceptable when a team is knocking in the ball easily from inside the arc; the Gators made 62.5 percent of their twos (15-of-24).
Everything else: UF never trailed, leading for 38:29 of the 40-minute game … sophomore F Devin Robinson posted 11 points … the Gators went 25-for-33 from the charity stripe, hitting 75.8 percent of their gimmies just one game after making a horrid 43.2 percent of their shots from the line
What it means: The victory is a nice one for the Gators, especially with it being a road game, but the win itself against an awful opponent will do little to help the team’s chances of getting into the NCAA Tournament. What the performance does is stop the bleeding of four straight losses and put UF back in the conversation as the bubble team, one which could sneak into the tourney if it can win a couple more games.
Up next: Florida will most likely earn the No. 8 seed in the SEC Tournament, meaning it will face No. 9 Arkansas in the event’s second game on Thursday at 12 p.m. on SEC Network. (The Gators beat the Razorbacks 87-83 at home on Feb. 3.) Should UF win, it will move on to face No. 1 seed Texas A&M on Friday at 12 p.m.; a victory in that game would go a long way to helping the Gators earn a berth to the NCAA Tournament.