Gator shooters thrive in Georgia Dome opener

Florida guard Michael Frazier II shoots a 3-pointer over Missouri forward Keanau Post during the first half of an SEC Tournament quarterfinal game on Friday in Atlanta.

Matt Stamey/Staff photographer
Published: Friday, March 14, 2014 at 4:27 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, March 14, 2014 at 8:08 p.m.

ATLANTA — Scottie Wilbekin shrugged off the question the way he shrugged off Missouri’s defense Friday.

“It’s just another gym, to be honest,” he said.

OK, well, it’s a gym you could land a fleet of blimps in. But the baskets are the same height in the Georgia Dome as they are in the O-Dome and a 3 is still a 3. Florida showed that by exploding any myths about shooting in a dome against Missouri.

The Gators made 12-of-21 shots from beyond the arc. Some of them helped the Gators rally from an early hole. Some of them extended Florida’s leads. Some of them served as daggers.

“When the first one goes in, it helps,” Wilbekin said.

Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II combined to make 10-of-13 from 3 range.

“They move the ball so well,” said Missouri coach Frank Haith. “They know where their shooters are.”

And UF coach Billy Donovan knew where his shooters were Friday morning. They were at the Georgia Dome getting some shots up.

Donovan said he gives his players the option to go to the arena or gym where they are playing when they have tip-offs such as noon or 1 p.m. and there is no shootaround.

“The great thing is that Frazier loves to go,” Donovan said. “And gradually, he’s gotten more of them to go with him. I just tell them the bus leaves at 7:45 and it’s up to them. Since we hadn’t shot at all here, everyone went except the bigs.”

The theory on shooting in domes used to be that a team that has had a game already in hand has an advantage.

But Missouri, which made 7-of-22 in a double overtime win over Texas A&M on Thursday, made only 1-of-13 on Friday.

“Obviously, they’re a great 3-point shooting team,” Donovan said. “I think our defense probably contributed to it, but I’m sure for (Jabari) Brown, (Jordan) Clarkson and (Earnest) Ross playing the amount of minutes they did probably had some level of impact on their shooting.”

Those three guards played 127 combined minutes in the game against the Aggies and took all of Missouri’s 3-point shots Friday.

It was Wilbekin who hit some big 3s early against Mizzou’s zone defense. And his 3 after a steal ignited a 12-0 run in the second half that turned a close game into a comfortable one for Florida.

“When the game is tight,” said Missouri’s Brown, “those are big blows.”

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