Behind a dominating effort on the glass, the Florida Gators extended their winning streak to 13 games cruising to a 69-36 victory over the hapless Texas A&M Aggies. Their 19-2 record is tied for best start in school history with the two national title winning teams in 05-06 and 06-07.
Once again, however, the Gators got off to a slow start, missing their first 9 shots from three point range before Scottie Wilbekin finally drained one at the 4:44 mark of the first half. The Gators were clinging to a 14-12 lead with just over 9 minutes left in the first half before going on a 20-5 run to close out half leaving the Gators with a 34-17 halftime lead.
The Gators coasted from there pushing the lead up to 38 points at 64-26 with under five minutes remaining. The overwhelmed Aggies didn’t break the 30 point mark until there was barely over two minutes remaining in the game.
The story of this one for the Gators was rebounding. In perhaps their most dominant rebounding game in recent memory, the Gators owned the glass finishing with a +30 rebounding margin 57-27. At halftime, the Gators had as many offensive rebounds (12) as Texas A&M had total rebounds.
“It was a point of emphasis but we need to do that every night,” Michael Frazier said after the game of their rebounding effort.
On Patric Young’s birthday he had a monster game playing with hustle and energy barely missing a double-double with 9 points and 12 rebounds. Sadly he missed 3 of 4 free throws late in the second half which could have pushed him over the mark before being taken out for good.
“I thought he was great tonight,” coach Donovan said. “I told him every game should be his birthday.”
He also had another Sports Center Top 10 monster put back dunk which threatened to blow the roof off the O’Dome roof. It’s the third straight game he’s had an SC Top 10 play.
Offensively, the Gators were led by Michael Frazier who finished with a game high 21 points on 6-15 shooting and 3-11 from the three point line. Dorian Finney-Smith was the only other Gator in double figures finishing with 11 points. Overall, they shot a respectable 41.1 percent from the field but were only 5-25 (20%) from three point range their second consecutive game they were cold from beyond the three point arc.
Defensively, the Gators continued a run of strong play holding their twelfth opponent under 60 points and fourth under 50. The 36 points is the fewest scored by A&M since 1955. Coming in to today’s game the Gators had moved up to 8th in the nation in scoring defense holding opponents to 58.5 points per game. They showed how today.
With their usual mixture of suffocating, disruptive full court pressure and stifling man to man and zone defense, the Aggies were kept off balance all day and were never allowed to get into a rhythm. With Florida dominating the boards, the Aggies never really had a chance time after time being held to one off balance shot late in the shot clock.
The biggest question in this one was would the Gators be able to continue to focus after jumping out to the big lead, something that has been a problem this year and has worried Donovan.
“We talk about every possession playing to the best of our ability,” Donovan said when asked about his team’s tendency to get complacent with big leads.
Not to worry today as they continued to play with effort and energy throughout fighting for rebounds and loose balls and sticking with their full court press.
With the victory, the Gators remain unbeaten in conference play at 8-0. The Gators continue a three game homestand on Tuesday in the O’Dome against Missouri. It will mark the season and career debut of McDonald’s All American Chris Walker who missed the first twelve games of his career due to an NCAA suspension for receiving impermissible benefits while in high school.
Tuesday’s tip off is scheduled for 9 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on ESPN.