The Florida Gators came in to today’s “Stripe the O’Dome” matchup with the Tennessee Volunteers looking to exercise some demons. Mission completed. The Gators have struggled against the Vols under head coach Billy Donovan, he had a career 16-18 record against them, so excuse Gator Nation if they might have seemed a little nervous coming in.
They need not have worried. Behind a balanced scoring attack and a suffocating defensive effort the Gators dominated the Volunteers 67-41. In front of a national ESPN audience the Gators put on their annual “Stripe the O’Dome” event where they hand out orange and blue tshirts to game attendees based upon their seating. It’s always fun for fans and the play of the Gators had the O’Dome rocking for the national audience.
As is their M.O. against the Gators, the Vols pounded the offensive glass in the first half getting second and third chance opportunities to keep it close going in to halftime down only by 7 points. The Gators, however, turned up the defensive intensity in the second half with their zone and press and quickly ran away with this one.
The Gators forced 13 Tennessee turnovers and held them to 26.8% shooting (15-56) and a paltry 1-19 (5.3%) from three to take over this game early in the second half and coast from there. Offensively, the Gators shot well getting their pick and roll going in the 2nd half finishing 26-54 (48.1%) from the floor and were 10-13 from the fre throw stripe.
The story of this one though was defense. The Vols struggled the entire game against the press with the Gators repeatedly forcing turnovers and timeouts. They weren’t much better against the Gators’ zone either forcing up off balance shots in the lane or settling for three point shots which simply weren’t falling for them. This was perhaps the Gators best defensive effort of the season holding the Vols over thirty points under their season average and 13 points below their previous season low for points in a game. They did their best defensive job against Jordan McRae who hurt them last year holding him to 1-15 from the field and finishing with only 5 points.
The Gators were led offensively by Michael Frazier who was 5-8 from the floor and 3-6 from beyond the three point arc finishing with 17 points. He chipped in 4 rebounds and 2 assists as well. Scottie Wilbekin continued his stellar play with clutch shots and consistent play at the point finishing with 13 points. Leading scorer Casey Prather scored 12 points, the 17th consecutive game he scored in double figures, as he continues to draw attention as the most improved player in the nation. Center Patric Young had a solid game as well finishing with 10 points and a monster Sports Center highlight candidate one-handed alley oop dunk off the pick and roll. He played well battling the tough, physical Jarnell Stokes who finished with 16, mostly off second chance rebounds.
With the victory the Gators move to 17-2 overall on the season and 6-0 in SEC play. It was their 27th consecutive home victory extending their school record and 11th straight overall this season.
Next, the Gators travel to Starkville, Mississippi to take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs on Thursday evening. Tip off is scheduled for 7 pm eastern and will be broadcast on ESPN2.