Florida's unbeaten streak in the SEC lives on.
The top-ranked Gators opened the SEC tournament in style, easily beating Missouri, 72-49. Missouri managed to keep things close in the first half, but Florida sprinted past them down the stretch, outscoring them 43-20 in the second half.
In many ways, it was a replica of when these teams first met on February 4. In that game, Missouri led by three at the half before Florida pulled away, outscoring them 43-30 in the second half.
The Gators were once paced by the backcourt pair of Scottie Wilbekin (15 points, four steals, two assists, 5-of-6 from three) and Michael Frazier II (15 points, five rebounds, two steals, 5-of-7 from three), while Dorian Finney-Smith pitched in with 10 points and nine rebounds off the bench.
Jabari Brown led the way for Missouri with 18 points and five rebounds.
The Gators once again won by playing tough defense—they forced 14 turnovers and came up with nine steals—scoring in transition and making their shots from the perimeter (12-of-21 from beyond the arc). Missouri alum and former NBA player Kim English nicely summed up Florida's plan of attack:
Florida has spurtability.— Kim English (@Englishscope24) March 14, 2014
Stifling.. #UF's defense is long, quick and active. Their zone looks like Syracuse. I think we are better off breaking the press and going.— Kim English (@Englishscope24) March 14, 2014
Coming into this game, you might have questioned whether Florida would remain focused on the task at hand, as most people had them as the favorite to be the top overall seed in the NCAA tournament. But coach Billy Donovan said his team's focus remained on the SEC tournament, via CBS:
"If we're playing in Orlando, that's great," he said. "But our goal right now would be to try to put three games together and play in a championship game on Sunday."
They certainly got started in convincing fashion.
Top Performer: Scottie Wilbekin, Florida
Wilbekin did a little bit of everything for the Gators. He scored when they needed him to score. He kept his teammates involved. He played strong defenses and came up with four steals. He didn't turn the ball over once.
Florida is loaded with talent and balanced in its attack—five players score nine or more points per game—but its senior point guard is the straw that stirs the drink. If the Gators are to win a national championship this season, it will be because Wilbekin leads them there.
|Florida||Michael Frazier II||A|
|Missouri||Johnathan Williams, III||C|
Florida will face either South Carolina or Tennessee in the SEC tournament semifinals, as they look to keep their unbeaten streak in the league alive and make it 25 wins in a row overall.
As for Missouri, they are likely heading to the NIT now but still have an outside chance of reaching the NCAA tournament. They'll certainly be hoping chalk holds in the other conference tournaments and a surprise team doesn't steal an at-large bid. If that happens, Missouri almost certainly will be NIT bound.