For most of their six-game sprint to national prominence in November, the Florida Gators looked like a sweet-shooting, free-wheeling outfit with more than enough offense to compensate for any of their few defensive shortcomings.
For almost the entirety of their 83-66 Tuesday night torching with Texas A&M — on the road in College Station, in their first true road game of the 2017-18 season — those Gators were back.
Florida sank 17 of 28 threes — 10 of them in the first half, with six Gators making multiple treys — and got at least seven points from all but one Gator who saw the floor in a comprehensive offensive explosion. Egor Koulechov led the way with 19 points and five threes, but every Gator who scored — Gorjok Gak was the outlier — managed at least a point per shot, and the Gators shot a great 51.6 percent from the field and a molten 60.7 percent from three.
That barrage of threes in the first half helped Florida blow open a game that began with both teams hot from the field. The Gators led by just an 11-9 count at the under-16 media timeout, but put together 14-2 and 13-6 runs before intermission, leading by as many as 17 in the first half and 16 at the break.
The second half was almost as good, despite fewer threes: Florida responded to a few A&M flurries with potent counterpunches, and led by as many as 23 points before garbage-time buckets whittled down the final margin of victory.
And Florida’s 83 points — its most since its scintillating run at the PK80 Invitational — came entirely without the benefit of free throws, with a record-tying 0-for-1 performance at the line in a game in which rather lenient officiating led to just six free throws total.
Meanwhile, holding a potent A&M team to just 66 points — despite, as ESPN’s commentary team mentioned once or twice, the Aggies missing a number of players — was an achievement for the Gators’ undersized roster, which played defense to be proud of against A&M’s twin interior terrors, Tyler Davis and Robert Williams. The twosome split their 24 points evenly, but took a combined 23 shots to get them — and Davis got just nine of them inside the arc, with a surprising three accounting for a quarter of his output.
Credit Kevarrius Hayes (eight points, five blocks) and Keith Stone (a career-high 18 points to go with yeoman’s work inside) for a lot of that, but Florida’s game plan of throwing as many bodies as possible at Davis (especially) and Williams was a good one executed well by what appeared to be a hungry and confident team.
That look was hard to squint into existence from the Gators over an up-and-down December.
Now, for the first time since the first few weeks of this season, we’ve seen it clearly, thanks to a night when Florida was the brightest thing in Texas.