USA TODAY Sports
Just when you think Florida's maximized its ability to impress, the Gators double up an SEC team.
Here is the complete list of games in which Florida's more than doubled its SEC foe's score in a victory:
I was -53 and a month away from turning three for those first two games, so you'll have to forgive my youth on this one, but I'm pretty sure what we saw tonight was the most dominant game Florida has ever played against a fellow SEC team.
And the Gators didn't play their best, either.
Florida came out of the blocks slow, and didn't score until the 17:19 mark of the first half; the Gators were sloppy throughout that first half, with eight turnovers, nine missed free throws, two missed lay-ups, and a missed dunk in the first 20 minutes. Florida scored less than a point per possession in the first half, an uncharacteristically low number for a team that is usually near 1.2 points per trip for entire games.
The Gators still led by 23 at the half, and by a 33-10 count. That's how fearsome Florida's defense was on the night.
The Gators allowed three field goals to South Carolina, second only to their two allowed against an abysmal Alabama State team for field goals allowed in a half during this season of suffocation. The Gamecocks scored one of those points on a free throw awarded because Mike Rosario was whistled for a technical foul for hanging on the rim after a dunk, while Kenny Boynton ran underneath him. Had that foul not been called, Florida might have held the Gamecocks to the same total the Hornets mustered.
To paraphrase a saying from a different sport, South Carolina's supposed to be an SEC team.
The Gamecocks have been doubled up by Florida twice before (42-17 in 1930, and 63-29 in 1931), but never as an SEC team. This year, though, being horrifically awful at basketball and being thrashed by Florida are almost the prison tattoos of the SEC brotherhood, and South Carolina got its painful memento in Gainesville tonight, with Florida recording its fourth 30-point win against an SEC team in its seventh SEC game.
As Florida's lead ballooned in the second half — to 46-13 after a 13-3 blitz in the first 3:08 of the half, to 55-15 after another 9-0 run, to 46 points at 73-27 after a reverse lay-up by walk-on Jacob Kurtz — it felt like the Gators were playing an exhibition on offense and demonstrating defense for summer campers. South Carolina would make 14 baskets on 45 tries on the night, but fully half of those came in the last 7:34 of play, after Florida had already built a 62-20 lead. And Florida disrupted almost all of South Carolina's attempts to run offense, allowing just three of the eight assists the Gamecocks recorded on the night before that final 7:34.
Defense like that makes balanced offense (Rosario, who had a personal 10-0 run in the first half, and Boynton, who scored the game's first five points, each had 15 points on the night), great bench play (Michael Frazier added 12 points, all on threes), phenomenal rebounding (Florida allowed six offensive rebounds on 31 misses to a team that was grabbing more than 42 percent of its misses coming into the night) and absurd individual play (Patric Young blocked a shot so hard off the backboard that the ball bounced to Rosario for a pseudo-assist; Rosario and Boynton ran a perfect fast break early; Scottie Wilbekin flicked a backhand pass to Frazier that turned into a three) hard to praise, because very good is better than good, great trumps very good, incredible beats great, and unfathomable is more impressive than incredible.
But let's be clear: I'm splitting hairs on the gradation of adjectives because Florida is on a run of sustained brilliance that is defying all logic and description.
The SEC is down, very much so, and, save Missouri, none of the teams Florida has run out of the gym is going to make the NCAA Tournament. Florida is much, much better than the SEC.
And yet Florida just beat a team that had beaten another SEC team by 21 points in its last time out by 39 points, and that final margin was far closer than the game felt.
Maybe I'll just write the next game recap in italics, or boldface. Florida certainly isn't being challenged by the SEC just yet, but the Gators are challenging all of us to comprehend that a level of play that was thought to be impossible is actually the norm for this team.