The Gators continued their impressive shooting efforts today in the O-Dome, shooting close to 61% on the game in a 79-70 win over the Ole Miss Rebels. This win gives the #1 Gators a 17-2 record on the year, having won all 4 games they have played in-conference.
The game had all the makings of a blowout in the first half, with the Gators taking a 19 point lead into the halftime break at 45-26. Despite looking as if they were totally unmatched in the first, the Rebels used an inspired full-court press defense and sharp shooting to keep the game close near the end - closer than the Gators wanted, at least.
The Gators, who were outscored 44-34 in the second half by Ole Miss, turned the ball over 18 times on the game - much higher than their season average of around 12/game. The Rebels turned those miscues into a total of 19 points in the losing effort. While this was not as pretty as we had wanted it to be, the second half performance may be beneficial to the Gators later in the season as it came clear they were not able to beat the press very effectively.
Billy Donovan pleading with his players to actually throw the ball up the court to beat the press, instead of throwing it out of bounds. (Gatorzone Photo)
When it was all said and done it came down to rebounds and getting to the free thow line - two things that the Gators did well today. Florida outrebounded Ole Miss 34-28 and got to the free throw line 14 more times than the Rebels did (25-11). Jermy Parnell and Kenny Williams both fouled out for the Rebels, who ran out of fresh bodies to throw at the Gators big men in the second half.
The lack of size and depth at the big man position showed today, as evidenced by Joakim Noah today. Noah had 24 points on the game to go along with 12 rebounds to give him his 5th double-double of the season. It also ran his double-figure scoring streak to 6 games. Lee Humphrey remained hot at the 3 point line, going 3-4 in the game and scoring 13 points.
This was not an overly impressive win by any means, although it did show us glimpses as to how good the Gators could actually be. On the other hand, though, it showed us some of the areas where the Gators need to improve.
Anyone watching could tell that the team lost focus in the second half of this game. It could have been because of the relatively easy time they had in the first half in producing a big lead, or could have just been a problem mentally. Either way, the Gators will need to find way to keep pressure on teams later in the season, especially when they're being pressed, if they want to remain #1 and have a shot at a repeat.