Third-ranked Gators roll to 13th straight win
Published: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 5:55 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, February 1, 2014 at 11:30 p.m.
The balls kept bouncing off the backboard. One by one, Florida players kept chasing them.
Missouri (16-5, 4-4 SEC) at No. 3 Florida (19-2, 8-0), 9 p.m., ESPN, WRUF
Senior center Patric Young wound up with his share. So did forwards Will Yeguete, Dorian Finney-Smith and sharp-shooting guard Michael Frazier II.
Behind an overwhelming 57-27 rebound margin, No. 3 Florida rolled to a 69-36 win over Texas A&M. A sellout crowd of 12,246 at the O'Connell Center watched another masterful UF defensive performance Saturday. Florida held Texas A&M to just 26 percent shooting and matched its fewest points allowed to an SEC opponent. Last season, Florida also held South Carolina to 36 points in a 75-36 win.
A big reason was Florida's ability to limit Texas A&M to one shot. Florida held Texas A&M to just five offensive rebounds and outscored Texas A&M 25-2 on second-chance points.
“We just really chased balls as a team,” Young said. “Frazier had eight rebounds, I was pulling for him to get a double-double. Doe-Doe (Finney Smith) had a lot. Will had a lot. We all came in there focused on limiting them to one possession on offense, and we did a good job of that.”
Florida (19-2, 8-0 SEC) won its 13th straight and is off to its third-best start in school history. The only two better starts came during UF's back-to-back national title seasons. In 2005-06, Florida started 20-2. In 2006-07, the Gators began 24-2.
But Florida players sounded far from complacent following another lopsided win, which extended a school record for consecutive home wins to 27.
“We have to understand that we can get better every day,” Frazier said. “We have to play desperate and chase greatness. When you chase greatness, that's how you reach your potential.”
Frazier led all scorers with 21 points. Finney-Smith added 11 points and nine rebounds and Young had nine points and a career-high 14 rebounds, narrowly missing a double-double on his 22nd birthday.
“I was really chasing the ball today,” Young said. “If coach kept me in, which I wanted, I would have had 17 at least. But I can't control that.”
With Florida up by as many as 38 points in the second half, Florida coach Billy Donovan went to his bench early to preserve his starters. Walk-ons Jacob Kurtz and Billy Donovan played the final five minutes.
Donovan praised Young's energy level, which carried over from the second half of UF's 62-51 win Thursday night at Mississippi State.
“I told him we'd tell him every game was his birthday, to get him to play like that,” Donovan said. “I thought he had a great motor. He didn't get a lot of touches. Got to the free-throw line some. Had really, really good energy. Chased balls. Defended. I thought he played exceptional today.”
Florida's hard work on the boards allowed the Gators to overcome an off-shooting game from the perimeter. The Gators missed their first nine 3-pointers and were just 1 of 12 from beyond the arc. For the game, Florida finished just 20 percent (5 of 25) from 3-point range.
“(Texas A&M) missed a lot, a lot of shots,” Donovan said. “They missed a lot of shots around the baskets, they missed a lot of jump shots. They had some decent looks that didn't go down. And I would say the same for us. We were 1 for 12 from behind the 3-point line in the first half and we had some great looks.”
Up 22-15 early, the Gators went on a 10-0 run to extend their lead to 32-15 after senior forward Casey Prather scored on a drive in the lane. Florida led 34-17 at halftime despite shooting just 40 percent from the field.
For the game, Florida outscored Texas A&M 32-12 in the paint and 11-7 in points off turnovers. The Aggies (12-9, 3-5) dropped their fifth straight game.
“Florida's a great defensive team,” Texas A&M coach Billy Kennedy said. “We had our opportunities early to score, but not many. When we had our opportunities to make free throws and layups, we couldn't score, but Florida had a lot to do with it.”
Contact Kevin Brockway at 352-374-5054 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Also check out Brockway's blog at Gatorsports.com.
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