clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Florida 85, Yale 47: Finally, the Gators dominate, and show their ceiling is the sky

This was how Florida can play at its best.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

The final score was 85-47 as Florida trucked Yale in the O'Dome on Monday night, but the number that really stuck with the viewer, the one that runs through Chris Harry's recap, was 49.

That was Florida's largest lead against the Bulldogs, achieved at 80-31, after a merciless Chris Chiozza hit a killer stepback corner three with the clock running down.

There was still 7:09 to play.

And Florida could've gunned for 100 if it had wanted on this night, or won by 50, or doubled up Yale's score, but Billy Donovan kept subbing in bench players — walk-on Jacob Kurtz isn't one, but he finished this game on the court, along with walk-ons Lexx Edwards (who entered at the under-12 timeout) and Zach Hodskins (who drew copious cheers from the Rowdy Reptiles, as hungry for the one-handed sniper to hit a three as they were for the younger Billy Donovan to do the same last season) — and Florida relented, giving up a 16-5 run to finish the game while committing six turnovers and going 2-for-6 from the field and 0-for-2 from three.

And yet that "bad" stretch still featured fantastic blocks from Chris Walker and Dorian Finney-Smith, a great dunk from Devin Robinson, and a patently ridiculous save of a possession by Chiozza (who saved a pass that nearly turned into a turnover, then launched a prayer from halfcourt that grazed the rim) and Robinson (who saved the rebound back into play while leaping out of bounds).

That was the "bad" stretch on as good a night of basketball as anything the 2013-14 Florida Gators put together, and yet there's still room to improve on 33 minutes of play that left the 2014-15 Gators up by 49. Michael Frazier II had 15 in the first half, and finished with 18 on 11 shots, but he missed threes in the O'Dome, a rarity, and never got to the line — in fact, Florida shot just four free throws on the night, making just one, and Walker chipped in that only charity-stripe point with 3:09 to play.

Robinson would finish with nine points and six rebounds, but had five points on six shots in the first half. Dorian Finney-Smith finished with 14 points, but had just two in the first half. Jon Horford had five points and four rebounds — numbers dwarfed by Kurtz, who punctuated his 10 points and six boards with a thunderous dunk that brought the few thousand fans in attendance on a cold night with finals looming to their feet.

These are quibbles, notes on cracks in a Mona Lisa, because Florida played what is essentially unbeatable ball, shooting better than 60 percent from the floor and better than 50 percent from three for an Effective Field Goal Percentage of 72.4 percent.— higher than any eFG% posted by the Gators in 2013-14, and highest by the program since twice eclipsing the mark in 2007-08. And Florida basically doesn't lose when on that plateau, going 16-1 since 2002-03 when at or above 70 percent in eFG%, with a lone loss coming against Tennessee in 2008 ... when the Vols scored 1.32 points per possession against a group of Gators that was woeful on defense.

These Gators are anything but: Only that last run by Yale spared the Bulldogs from scoring something like 0.65 points per possession, as they boosted their mark to 0.80 by night's end. (Florida scored 1.45 PPP, its third-best mark of the KenPom era.) And if Florida shoots anything close to 60 percent from the field, the Gators' defense, which hounded Yale into 15 turnovers and helped Florida's field goal makes rival the Elis' field goal attempts even late in the second half, will be more than enough to produce blowouts.

Yale, of course, was likely emotionally spent after a big win over UConn in Storrs on Friday — but Florida was arguably more spent, and more tired, after collapsing at Kansas, and the Gators played later and traveled about as far to get to Gainesville as the Bulldogs did. And Florida was without Eli Carter, held out by Donovan despite being cleared, yet again, and saw both Robinson and Frazier hit the deck hard with what appeared to be head injuries. (Robinson stayed in the game; Frazier went to the locker room, but would return later, and apparently only had a bruised nose.)

There's simply no way to interpret this game except as a phenomenal performance by Florida. (We haven't even talked about the Vines!) And though a win over Yale won't be a massive bump for the Gators, it's a very impressive win over a team that might well end up in the top 100 of the RPI; Yale's No. 75 in the category in ESPN's calculation of the stat as of Tuesday morning, and really shouldn't lose more than five or six more times this year.

Florida would like to have more of these games, of course, and it will have to play like this away from home to prove this was not merely a team catching fire in friendly confines.

But this team, despite all its flaws, showed last night that its ceiling is still the sky.