After the game, I checked the box score of Florida’s double-digit loss to No. 1 Baylor. It turns out that some of you were wrong.
Baylor did not get every rebound in the game.
OK, so it may have seemed like it.
The Gators were physically manhandled by a team that came to Gainesville and showed us what a No. 1 team looks like. In a season where college basketball teams have treated the top spot like it was musical chairs, Baylor looks the most comfortable at the top.
And the Bears showed just how big a gap there is from number one to number whatever.
Baylor is as tough a team as you’ll see this year.
Florida is, well, something else.
“We’re soft at times,” said Florida coach Mike White, who wore an exasperated expression after seeing his team handled. “From a mental toughness standpoint, where nowhere near where we need to be to be a championship team.”
I’m not sure anyone is thinking about a championship of anything around the Gator Nation. Florida fans packed the O-Dome only to find out that they could not make a difference against a team that made its noise on the court and seemed oblivious to anything coming from the stands.
That’s what tough teams do.
Baylor looked like a bunch of linebackers out there, physical and bruising. It was like it cloned a bunch of Keyontae Johnson in Waco.
Baylor looked like a bunch of grown men playing a bunch of youngsters, which wasn’t far from the truth.
The Bears moved Florida wherever they wanted the Gators to go. On one rebound, two Baylor players boxed out UF freshman Scottie Lewis from each side so that he looked like Gumby with the top half of his body twisting one way and the bottom half the other.
“They just moved us out of the way,” said Johnson, who fought for 20 points to lead the Gators.
The bottom line is this — Baylor does most things well most of the time while Florida does some things well some of the time.
Take free throws, please.
The Bears made 15-of-16.
Florida, on the other hand, missed the front end of three straight one-and-ones while the game was still competitive. Three straight gut punches.
“To beat a No. 1 team,” said White, “you gotta make some of them.”
And when you do finally get stops, you can’t have guys trying to make 8-point shots. They don’t exist. Still, there were times the Gators looked like they were shooting for degree of difficulty bonus points.
But mostly, this game was about defense. The No. 1 team played as if every possession was its last.
“They’ve got a few guys out there playing like maniacs,” White said. “The last 30 minutes, they are in the argument for being the best defensive team in the country.”
On the other hand, Florida played and has been playing defense in spots (and even when it got stops the rebound too often ended up in the hands of a Baylor player).
This Gator team had lost its defensive edge. I’d say UF is at a crossroads as far as this season goes, but it feels like there have been so many already.
This was the end of Florida’s three-game run through resume builders without the resume getting a big boost. The Gators now turn to the softer part of their schedule, but the way this team plays so inconsistently from game to game, from possession to possession, from second to second, are there really any soft opponents?
Saturday night certainly wasn’t one.
Baylor was as tough as the nails they used to hammer closed one corner of the orange and blue coffin for this season.
“I wanted to start early and get the crowd out of it, but just the opposite happened,” said Baylor coach Scott Drew. “That’s where experience comes in. We’ve got a lot of guys who’ve been through battles and they don’t get rattled as easily as someone that hasn’t.”
A lot of tough guys.
Certainly, a lot more than Florida has right now.
Contact Pat Dooley at 352-374-5053 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. And follow at Twitter.com/Pat_Dooley.