Breaking free from a tie score at the break, the No. 1 Florida Gators (30-2) powered past the Missouri Tigers (22-11) on Friday afternoon, doubling up the lower seed in the second half on the way to a dominant 72-49 victory in the quarterfinals of the 2014 Southeastern Conference Tournament at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta, GA.
Florida got better and better over the latter 20 minutes, never trailing in the second period. UF ended the game with its largest lead (23 points) and extended its winning streaks to 24-straight games dating back to Dec. 2, 2013
OnlyGators.com breaks it all down with eight quick-hitters:
It was over when: Pulling away and already up 14 with less than five minutes to play, sophomore guard Michael Frazier II drained a three on an assist from freshman PG Kasey Hill to push UF ahead 17 points with 4:20 remaining in the game. The lead had already been to be too much for the Tigers to overcome, but the Gators put the game away with Frazier’s well-timed triple.
Prominent players: Senior point guard Scottie Wilbekin was dominant on Saturday, scoring 15 points on 5-of-6 shooting from three-point range, grabbing four steals, pulling down three rebounds and dishing two assists. Joining him with a terrific offensive effort was Frazier, who matched Wilbekin with 15 points while hitting 5-of-7 attempts from downtown. He added four boards and two steals of his own.
Significant stretch / Perfect play: With effort and tenacity, Florida exploded on a 12-0 run just when it needed it the most – up only two points midway through the second half . After senior forward Will Yeguete scored a layup, he called for the press on defense. Wilbekin immediately stole the ball on the ensuing inbounds play, saved it from going out of bounds on his deflection and moved beyond the arc where he hit a wide open a three. The Gators pushed their lead to 14 points with seven minutes left to play thanks in large part to another Wilbekin three.
Check out the second half of The Fastbreak…after the break.
First half focus: Florida struggled mightily from two-point range in the first 20 minutes, hitting just 3-of-14 attempts. However, the Gators made 6-of-12 three-pointers during that same stretch. Three of those triples – from Wilbekin, redshirt sophomore F Dorian Finney-Smith and Frazier – came in succession and were part of a 10-2 run that pushed UF ahead 22-16 with six minutes to go in the opening period. Florida faltered in the final 3:10, going scoreless while allowing Mizzou to finish on a 6-0 run with a buzzer-beating dunk tying things up at 29.
Bench benefits: UF’s leading scorer and some of its supporting cast floundered a bit on Friday with Yeguete, senior F Casey Prather and sophomore G DeVon Walker combining to go 1-for-13 from the field with five turnovers and six fouls. Prather scored nine points (seven free throws), and Yeguete contributed with four rebounds and two steals. Making the biggest difference for Florida off the bench were Finney-Smith – 10 points, team-high nine rebounds – and Hill, who hit 3-of-4 shots for seven points with five boards and a team-high five dimes.
Standout stat: Going 12-for-21 from downtown, the Gators hit 57.1 percent of its attempts and helping to negate its issues form inside the arc. More important for Florida was its three-point defense, which held Mizzou to 1-for-13 from long range (.077). According to ESPN, the difference of 11 made three points was the largest between two teams in SEC play this season.
What it means: The Gators once again faced adversity and came away from it with a dominant victory, outscoring the Tigers 43-20 in the second half on the way to a 23-point victory to remain alive in league postseason play.
Next up: Florida will face either four-seed Tennessee or 13-seed South Carolina on Saturday at 1 p.m. on ABC in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament. The two teams square off Friday at 3:25 p.m. on ESPNU.