"That's my ball" was Scottie Wilbekin's rallying cry at the SEC Tournament. "That's my ball" is an appropriate mantra for Florida's relentless band of passionate cagers.
"That's my ball" is an appropriate description for how Wilbekin took over for Florida on Saturday, leading the Gators to a smothering 61-45 win over Pittsburgh and stamping their Sweet Sixteen passport with Orlando's seal.
These Gators were the frenzied, ferocious bunch missing from the court on Thursday, when spates of lackadaisical play earned Florida a perfunctory 12-point win over Albany and Billy Donovan's bafflement. They conceded few easy buckets and fewer easy possessions, repeatedly grinding Pitt to the nub, then pushing farther. Patric Young (seven points, eight rebounds) and Will Yeguete (eight points, four rebounds) neutralized Pitt's Talib Zanna, who got just seven shots, and still led Pitt with 10 points; Wilbekin, Casey Prather, and Dorian Finney-Smith flew around and challenged shots, limiting Pitt's driving game, lethal against Colorado, to heaves late in possessions.
And Wilbekin, with 21 points, was more than a third of Florida's offense on a day when the Gators got a half-dozen half-threes, throwing in shots from acute and obtuse angles off herky-jerk drives that you could see on any public New York City court today.
When Wilbekin took his customary end-of-half shot, it was a running heave in a desperation situation after a scramble, an attempt taken with a slim 24-22.
It went in.
Florida led 27-22 at halftime.
Florida never led by fewer than three points after that juncture.
Sometimes, going and getting the ball, and doing just what they want with it, is the Gators' full gameplan. And on some days, the awesome, unparalleled passion that fuels it simply overwhelms all in its path.
"It's my ball" is Wilbekin's quiet internal monologue. This Florida team is its megaphone.
That megaphone made sure this team was heard on Saturday. Loud and clear.