Florida started slow, missing its first eight threes, against Texas A&M today. And without ever really hitting the afterburners, the Gators roasted the Aggies, 69-36.
Michael Frazier II led the charge, getting 21 points and eight rebounds despite hitting just three of his 11 threes. Dorian Finney-Smith had 11 points and nine rebounds off the bench despite missing all four of his threes. And Patric Young had nine points and 14 rebounds — his first double-digit rebounding day of the year, and the closest he's come to a double-double on the season — on his 22nd birthday, and threw down the dunk of Florida's season so far, leaping over two Aggies to do it.
This was Florida at maybe 90 percent of its operational capacity. Casey Prather, nursing a sprained ankle, was hurt enough to begin the game on the bench and score just seven points in 21 minutes, failing to break into double digits for the first time this season. DeVon Walker didn't play after re-aggravating a hip injury against Mississippi State on Thursday. Kasey Hill, a dervish whirling ever closer to a complete player, had four points on 1-for-5 shooting and 2-for-5 foul shooting, two assists, two turnovers, two steals, and five fouls. Will Yeguete had 10 rebounds, and seven offensive boards, but just five points. Scottie Wilbekin had a library-quiet eight points and three assists, notable only for his three that guaranteed Florida's vaunted string of games with a three-pointer would continue. The Gators shot 41.1 percent from the field, 20 percent from three, and 62.1 percent from the charity stripe; they scored a respectable, if unspectacular, 1.08 points per possession.
And they utterly destroyed Texas A&M from midway through the first half onward.
A&M's Davonte Fitzgerald made a shot to cut Florida's lead to 14-12 with 10:13 left in the first half. From that point until the 4:48 mark of the second half, or about a minute after Billy Donovan inserted Jacob Kurtz and Billy Donovan for Young and the disqualified Hill, the Gators outscored the Aggies by a ludicrous 50-14 margin. Florida went on a 23-5 run to finish that first half that became a 30-6 run early in the second half, and didn't allow a A&M field goal for over nine minutes spanning the end of the first half and the beginning of the second. The tail end of the 50-14 stretch was an 18-2 run.
Florida hoarding rebounds like gold bars will be touted as the reason for the run: The Gators pulled down 57 rebounds, a season high, and tied a school record with 40 defensive boards. The 17 offensive boards almost pale in comparison, especially because it wasn't an especially great a day for the Gators on the offensive glass, with those 17 boards coming on about 39 opportunities — Florida's exceeded the 43.5 percent offensive rebounding rate it recorded today four times this season.
But Florida got those 40 defensive rebounds in part because Texas A&M missed 40 shots, truly a dubious achievement. The Gators' smothering defense, which met post entries with physicality and traps off a 1-3-1 zone and swarmed shooters consistently after allowing two open threes early, made those misses happen, and allowed the Aggies to score their 36 points on 64 possessions. The miserly 0.59 points per possession allowed resets Florida's standard for defensive efficiency against an SEC team this season just one week after the Gators incarcerated Tennessee's offense.
And, well, if it weren't for 10 points scored in the final five minutes against a crew including three walk-ons — while virtually every soul in the O'Dome was focused solely on the prospect of Donovan the Younger making his first three as a Gator — those numbers would be even more impressive. If DeVon Walker had played, or if Chris Walker had been suited up instead of rooted to the bench for the last game of his NCAA-mandated punishment for accepting impermissible benefits, it might have been worse for the Aggies. They were overmatched from the opening tip, never led, and only threatened the Gators early because of poor defense. When Florida upped its intensity at 14-12, A&M was powerless to do anything but succumb.
Florida shouldn't have been this good on this day, either, not with its only five-star talents still figuring out the speed of the college game and yet to play, respectively, its most consistent player mostly sidelined, its fearsome frontcourt still struggling to finish inside, and with 11 missed free throws and 20 missed threes preventing a historic blowout. It was this good, though, and so thoroughly dominant on the defensive end that the Gators leapt from No. 11 in KenPom's efficiency rankings to No. 6 with the outcome.
And here's a truly frightening thought: With Chris Walker's debut imminent, Prather and DeVon Walker returning to health, and a little regression to the mean for Florida's shooting numbers, the Gators should only get better.