Florida trailed Richmond 48-45 with 6:23 remaining in the second half on Saturday at the O'Connell Center when Billy Donovan called timeout midway through a possession.
This was rare for Donovan, who generally doesn't bail his team out of tough situations with timeouts, usually opting to let his Gators play their way into or out of trouble. Given how well that timeout worked, Donovan might want to think about that philosophy going forward.
Florida scored coming out of the timeout on a Scottie Wilbekin floater, but only after Wilbekin drew a foul on the floor to extend the possession. The Gators scored on their next possession, too, after forcing a missed three. And then they scored on the next possession, and the next, and the next, and the next, ripping off a 13-2 run at a crucial moment that looked like it forked to glory and doom.
Florida's 67-58 win was down the former path.
Patric Young had 15 points and six rebounds as the Gators' anchor, including the go-ahead bucket (and a free throw to finish the and-one), while Michael Frazier II led Florida with 18 points and had a critical personal 6-0 run with back-to-back threes while the Gators were staggering. Dorian Finney-Smith led Florida's assault on the boards — the Gators got 44 rebounds to Richmond's 22 on the day, snagging 15 offensive rebounds and allowing just three — with 13 boards, and Casey Prather (12 points) and Wilbekin (10 points) joined Young and Frazier in double figures.
All of their contributions were needed, as Richmond made things dicey for the Gators with nine threes and a combined 34 points from its dynamic backcourt of Kendall Anthony and Cedrick Lindsay. The Spiders led only once in the first half, at 3-2, but traded the lead with the Gators for most of the second stanza, eventually building a 46-42 advantage with 8:34 remaining that would be their biggest lead of the day.
It felt like the Spiders, lacking the size to compete with Florida in the paint at either end, had done all they could to get there. And when Florida finished on a 25-12 spurt from that point, with that aforementioned 13-2 run coming in a 16-2 run that had a 10-0 stretch, it felt like the stronger team finally putting things together.
But Richmond served as another strong non-conference foe for the Gators, who finished that portion of their 2013-14 schedule at 11-2 with the win, and added the Spiders to a list of victims that includes Kansas, Memphis, Florida State, and Middle Tennessee State, all potential NCAA Tournament entrants.
Richmond might be there in March, too, and flashed enough shooting and defense in the O'Dome to make me think the Spiders could upset a team or two in the Big Dance. Florida fending off that upset in January, though — in a situation that several recent iterations of the Florida Gators might have blanched at or shrunk from — is just the latest data point that makes me think these Gators could make a run into April.