Henderson gets his, but Gators get job done
Published: Saturday, February 2, 2013 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Sunday, February 3, 2013 at 12:43 a.m.
Scottie Wilbekin was remarkably refreshed for a guy who just ran a marathon. Maybe it was because he ran it in so many short bursts back and forth across the floor of the O'Connell Center as he tried to chase the rabbit on Red Bull known as Marshall Henderson.
“I'm really not that tired,” he said. “I guess it's different from guarding a point guard where there's a lot of on-ball defense.”
Oh, there was plenty of on-ball defense from Wilbekin. Twice during the game Henderson went up for a shot and had to adjust in mid-air to pass the ball because Wilbekin was about to block his shot. On a third try, Wilbekin's final defensive play of the game with 18.5 seconds to play, he did block Henderson's shot.
It was the perfect end to another great defensive effort by the Gators as they held the SEC's highest-scoring team to 64 points. They made Henderson work for every point, and he still scored 25.
“He's a good guy,” Wilbekin said. “I told him after the game I have a lot of respect for him. I did my best, but he still got 25.”
On a night that Henderson lived up to the hype and the O'Dome returned to form, Florida's defense came through again. But this was a night when Florida needed more than defense to stay unbeaten in SEC play.
And the Gators brought their offense.
“Our anchor is still defense,” said forward Erik Murphy, who led Florida with 19 points and missed only one shot. “I don't worry too much about our offense.”
Ah, but this was a night when they needed offense because this was an Ole Miss team that, despite being down two players, could still put runs together.
And every time they did, every time they made the sellout crowd a little nervous, every time Henderson made a ridiculous shot or Murphy Holloway made a tough flying hook shot, the offense answered.
“I was hoping Florida would have a little drought,” said Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy. “Just a two- or three-minute phase where they got bored. And they never got bored.”
Instead, they kept executing and keeping the Rebels at a distance. Ole Miss wasn't like so many of the SEC teams Florida has faced in that they kept trying to battle back when Florida looked unbeatable in the first half. Down by 20, they cut it to 10.
And then Murphy hit a 3.
Down by 23 in the second half, they cut it to 13.
And then Murphy hit a 3.
“I was a little bit concerned coming into the game whether we could make shots,” UF coach Billy Donovan said. “I felt like we were going to need to score some points in the game.”
So they did. They scored 78 of them, the third most they have scored in SEC play this year. And they did it despite Kenny Boynton and Wilbekin combining to make only two of 14 shots from beyond the arc.
Don't think for a second those missed shots tarnished the games turned in by the two Florida guards. They also combined for 17 assists and made half of their 14 two-point tries.
“I thought we left some points out there,” Donovan said.
They did, but they still scored plenty against the Rebels, whose rough week got rougher with their second straight loss. That's what makes this Florida team so good right now.
They can beat you with defense. And when they attack you offensively, it's not just one guy you have to stop. All five starters scored at least nine points Saturday night. And on a night when Florida shot only three free throws to 21 for Mississippi, it didn't matter because the Gators had 18 more assists than the Rebels.
Certainly, this is still a team that is winning with defense. But it's nice to know that on a night when it needed offense, too, there was more than enough to go around.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.