The Gators did, plus a whole lot more.
On Patric Young Beard Night at the O’Connell Center, the Florida Gators extended their school record home winning streak to 25 consecutive games downing the Georgia Bulldogs 72-50. The MBK Rowdies handed out fake orange beards to the Rowdy Reptiles before the game in honor of senior center Patric Young’s now famous beard. For the Georgia players, they may as well have handed out umbrellas as the Gators rained down a barrage of threes early and late to easily handle the rival Bulldogs for 12th consecutive time.
With leading scorer Casey Prather sitting for the second consecutive game due to a bruised knee, the Gators went on a 13-0 run between the fifteen minute and 11 minute mark of the first half to take control and they cruised to a 36-16 halftime lead behind senior small forward Will Yeguete’s ten points and five rebounds. The Gators actually struggled from the outside through much of the middle part of the game, but stayed well out in front due to suffocating defense which forced 15 Bulldog turnovers and held them to 33.3% (16-48) field goal shooting for the game.
The Gators got hot late with Michael Frazier, who started 1-8 from beyond the arc, hitting four three pointers in a row to finish with a game and career high 21 points (7-16 overall, 5-12 from 3 pt range). Dorian Finney-Smith followed up his second double-double of the season with a solid 14 points and 5 rebounds while Will Yeguete chipped in 12 points and 6 rebounds. The man of honor Patric Young barely missed a double-double himself finishing with 10 points and 9 rebounds.
The Gators, who went with a three guard lineup to start the game to counteract the Bulldogs heavy reliance on their guards, did a fantastic job of bottling up SEC player of the week Charles Mann who finished with a mere 8 points on only 3-7 shooting. Guard Juwan Parker came off the bench to pace the Bullldogs with 13 points.
Despite the huge victory, all was not rosy for the the Gators. They still continued to lose focus with the large lead, something coach Billy Donovan addressed with the media this week, and once again they struggled against a zone defense and their outside shooting was inconsistent, but they did what they needed to to take control and cruise in this game. One big positive coming out of this game was their 18 assists to only 8 turnovers. The Gators had been struggling with a low assist to turnover ratio but were much better tonight as they took better care of the basketball and likely had their best game in terms of driving the lane and dishing the ball off to open shooters.
The Rowdy Reptiles were their usual raucous bunch showing a national ESPNU audience why the O’Dome is still one of the toughest road venues in the country. And Patric Young Beard night, coming on the heels of Will Yeguete Brohawk night last season, was a resounding success.
The Gators did tonight and they gave the Bulldogs reason to Fear the Beard.
With the win the Gators move to 14-2 on the season and 3-0 in conference play. The Bulldogs drop to 8-7 and 2-1 in the SEC. Up next for the Gators is a Saturday road trip to Auburn, Alabama to take on the 8-5 Auburn Tigers. Tip off is 4 pm eastern and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.