(I’ll keep the basketball recap short and sweet, because I have to go to bed at some point. I’ll get to the football game tomorrow, I promise.)
On a night dominated by college football, between Auburn’s “Hare Mary”, Stanford getting upset by USC and Central Florida pulling off a miracle win in the final seconds, the Florida Gators also played a basketball game.
And not the best one I’ve ever seen, though good enough to earn the Gators their second win of the season.
The Gators started off slower than I’ve ever seen them begin a game against such a lower level team, even slower than they did against North Florida, which now ranks second in that category. Arkansas Little Rock sensed Florida’s lack of energy after the tough loss in the Kohl Center to Wisconsin, and pounced, hanging with a far superior Gator team for the entire first half, even grabbing a quick two point lead late in the half before Kasey Hill tied it up with a jumper just before halftime.
Then Dorial Finney-Smith took over. Smith, a Virginia Tech transfer, put up 17 points in a miraculous 16 minute span to ensure the Gators wouldn’t become the hilarious punch line of the college basketball day. Ohio State and Marquette could only muster a combined 38 points in the first half; it became pretty clear that their combined ineptitude would remain the lone basketball story of the day the moment Finney Smith hit a three pointer to put Florida up 43-37, because things snowballed from there. From that three to the end of the game, Florida outscored UALR 46-19. That all adds up to 86-56, which looks a hell of a lot more convincing than it really was. At the end of the day, it’s a win, and not one of those losses you see again in February when ESPN announcers are going team by team and comparing resumes. A loss to UALR would definitely fall under that “bad loss” category. So the Gators avoided that, which is always good.
There were certainly moments of frustration, though.
The Gators went 19-28 from the free throw line- which has been a problem since I was a toddler- and the Gators just generally lacked the energy needed to pull away from a scrappy team from a mid major conference. It took until the second half was well underway for Finney-Smith to wake the entire team up. That’s partly understandable after what happened in Wisconsin, but without the spark provided by the transfer Finney-Smith, who just came off his suspension, it could have cost them big time. It didn’t this time, but it could next time. Southern University is a team that played Gonzaga very tough in last year’s NCAA Tournament, and the Jaguars are a step up from UALR.
The other encouraging sign in this game, aside from Finney-Smith, was the emergence of Casey Prather. He had a huge game against Virginia in the NCAA Tournament a few years ago, but has been buried beneath the names like Kenny Boynton, Patric Young (who played so-so after a bad outing against UNF) and even Will Yeguette (who didn’t exactly play the best game of his life). Well, for the second time in three games, Prather played exceptionally well. He can be of great use to this Gators team as the season goes along, and I hope to see him featured in the offense a little bit more as the season goes along. He finished with 27 points, a sure a sign as any you’re going to get on such a selfless team that he’s ready to contribute as much as you need him to. He also pulled down eight boards, and even nailed a three pointer.
So, the Gators won, which is great. They struggled, which isn’t, but hey, the schedule shows a green “W”, and that’s all that matters for now. The Gators have a little time to improve before the gauntlet of Florida State, Connecticut, Kansas and Memphis, and they’d better use it. But for now, all is well in the world of Gator basketball.