The Gators have made their living this season by playing staunch defense and forcing the opponents into sloppy play. So it was no different tonight, as the Gators forced 12 turnovers and held the Missouri Tigers in check for most of the night in a 68-58 victory.
Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier led the way for Florida with 19 and 14 points, respectively, with both players hitting multiple critical threes. But McDonald's All-American Chris Walker may have shined brightest in his collegiate debut: He came off the bench to a roaring ovation from Florida's fans, and got subsequent ovations for his two blocks and four points — on two alley-oops from former AAU teammate Kasey Hill.
Florida fans hope that Walker's progression throughout the season will provide much needed depth and scoring in both the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, and tonight was a promising first return on that front.
Patric Young continued to be a force inside for the Gators, with 13 points and six rebounds, and the Gators cooled off Jabari Brown, who came in having scored 22 points in each of his last six games, by limiting him to 15 points on the night, three from a buzzer-beater to end the first half. And surprisingly good foul shooting from the Gators, who made 24 of 33 free throws, carried the team through a rocky second half.
With this win, the Gators improve their record to 20-2, and extend their home winning streak to 28 games. The Gators will now prepare for Alabama, as the Crimson Tide travel to the O'Dome Saturday for a noon game on ESPN.