It’s hard to believe that the team I was watching on Tuesday night was the same team that I was watching a week ago. After lulling us to sleep with the most boring game ever, the Gators this week gave us the complete opposite and showed what this team is really made of with yet another conference road win.
Florida defeated Georgia 104-91 on Tuesday night in a double overtime thriller that included miraculous comebacks, (multiple) buzzer beaters, and tons of scoring.
The game seemed all but won after Georgia turned the ball over with less than a minute left and Florida carrying a four point lead. But once again free throws were our achilles heel. The ironic thing this time around was that it was one of our best free throw shooters, on a night where Florida shot pretty good from the line as a team, that couldn’t hit them down the stretch.
Florida inbounded with its four point lead and Erving Walker was fouled and sent to the stripe with 36 seconds left and a 4-point lead. Walker, a 76% free throw shooter on the year, missed the front end of his 1-and-1 to give Georgia a chance. After Gerald Robinson hit a tough 3-pointer, Walker was once again sent to the line, this time with a 1-point lead and 21 seconds left. Walker made one of two, and Georgia got an offense rebound and layup to tie the game up that was literally as close to a buzzer beater as you can possibly get, with the ball leaving Trey Thompkins hand with 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
That sent the game to overtime with Georgia having all the momentum. Florida felt like they were clinging for dear life, and they did that just well enough to get the ball back with 6.7 seconds left and a 3-point deficit. Erving Walker, who missed his chance to ice it in regulation, then hit the miraculous three pointer you see in the video up above to send us to a second overtime. I guess all that practice that Walker has had shooting three pointers from way deeper than he should be finally paid off.
The Gators took control in the second overtime as Chandler Parsons took over the game, and the Gators quickly pulled away.
This game really showed us a lot about this Gators team. Walker’s perserverance was perhaps the story of the night. He could have easily folded after botching the last minute of regulation and giving Georgia a chance to win a game that they had no business being in. Instead, he did the complete opposite and was at his best after that.
The Gators had four players score 19 points or more. Vernon Macklin dominated the early game, Chandler Parsons dominated the late game, and Boynton and Walker were steady throughout.
The really odd part of the game was the story behind the offensive rebounding. Georgia dominated on the offensive glass in the first half. Billy Donovan must have lit a fire under the Gators at half time because when they came out in the second half that was completely flipped, as the Gators dominated the offensive glass. From then on it seemed to switch off every 5 minutes or so. Georgia would get what seemed like a half dozen consecutive offensive rebounds over a 3-5 minute span and then Florida would do the same. Back and forth they went. At the end of regulation and during the 1st overtime, Georgia continually racked up second chance points and the Gators barely held on. In the 2nd overtime, the Gators regained control of the glass and ran away with the game. It was really unusual to see the rebounding game be so streaky.
The most confidence inspiring part of the game was the Gators reaction to Georgia’s switch to a zone late in the 2nd half. If you’ll recall, Auburn’s zone defense really shut Florida down a week ago, and while they bounced back nicely against Arkansas, Arkansas played strictly a man to man defense. I was beginning to wonder if perhaps Florida just couldn’t handle a zone D. Fortunately, when Georgia gave this theory a shot late in the second half, the Gators ripped it a part so fast that Georgia had to abandon it within a few possessions. Rather than lazily pass the ball around the perimeter like they did against Auburn, the Gator guards created and drove to the basket, and got the ball inside to Macklin, who had a monster game. It was great to see Boynton, Walker, and Parsons creating with the ball in this game because that is what this Gators team desperately needs. If we become purely an outside shooting team we have no chance.
This Gators team will live and die by the matchups of our guards. Against athletic guards that can prevent them from getting inside, our offense were struggle. Against guards that Boynton and Walker can penetrate against, the team will have success. Thusfar, we’ve found more opponents in the latter category as the Gators now sit alone atop the SEC East with an NCAA tournament birth seeming all but assured at this point, barring a monumental collapse.