The last time the Richmond Spiders came to Florida, they took it to the Gators for 40 minutes and came away with a stunning 56-53 upset. This time, they took it to the Gators for only 35 minutes. The difference was glaringly apparent.
Patric Young scored 15 points, Michael Frazier added 18 (including three gigantic three pointers in the second half) and Florida escaped the Spiders late in Gainesville to finish their non conference schedule with an 11-2 record- not bad considering Kansas, Connecticut, Wisconsin, Memphis and Florida State highlighted that schedule.
This one was far from easy, though.
Much like the Spiders did back in the 2009-2010 season, they came at the Gators with everything they had. Most notably, whenever Florida would do something to get the crowd into it, Richmond would calmly respond. Every time Florida looked like they would pull away, Richmond had an answer, and it made most of the slightly less than packed O’Dome squirm in their seats. That is, until Florida showed that they could answer Richmond’s answers with a backbreaking 12-0 run beginning with a Patric Young bucket with 4:35 to go.
But until then, the Gators really struggled, particularly on offense. Florida finished the day with a paltry 26% from three-point land (one can only imagine where they would have been in this department without the heroics of Frazier), and turned the ball over 14 times. Defensively, the Gators had a difficult time stopping Cedrick Lindsay, who finished with 19 points- quite a lot for a game as slow as this one was.
Even in the end, Florida didn’t play perfect basketball. After the run, Richmond went into fouling mode. Florida promptly missed 6 of 8 free throws, which allowed Richmond to stay alive. Fortunately, the Spiders missed the shots they needed to make down the stretch, so the Gators survived.
I was not happy with a lot of things today, which has not been the case throughout every game of the season so far, even in Florida’s losses. The three point shooting was bad, as it will be on some days, but other than Patric Young, the Gators really had trouble scoring from inside the three point arc- very atypical of this season. Scottie Wilbekin in particular had a bad day, but a bad day by one guy can be pardoned if there are two or three other guys who can pick up the slack, which there simply were not today. Kasey Hill had a few decent moves and subsequent buckets or kick outs for threes, but they were few and far between.
The other thing that scared me was the Gators’ collective inability to close at the free throw line. I know Florida’s going to struggle making field goals sometimes, but a team that’s going to have to win a lot of close games has got to be able to slam the door shut from the charity stripe. 2-8 in crunch time is simply unacceptable, and is bad even by Florida’s incredibly low standards under Billy Donovan. Even Michael Frazier, one of Florida’s best free throw shooters, missed one out of two.
But at the end of the day, it counts as a win, just like it did when Kansas came to town and just like it did when Florida beat Memphis at MSG in New York. I don’t put too much stock into a game like this, because it reads trap game in bright flashing neon letters. Richmond is a good team, and I expected them to give Florida a good fight. At some point, the Gators are going to have to beat a team with less talent but plenty of determination in order to survive, perhaps in the early stages of the NCAA Tournament. Having fought off a tough Richmond team is certainly good practice for that, and despite the areas of concern, I can at least feel confident that Florida has the pieces to fight off scrappy teams in crunch time.