Leonard Hamilton and the Florida State Seminoles have owned the Florida Gators the last three seasons in the Sunflower State rivalry. Monday night at the O’Connell Center was no different, as the Seminoles ran the Gators off their own court, 83 to 66, with a dominating start-to-finish performance.
The Noles had four players score in double figures (Terance Mann, C.J. Walker, Phil Cofer and Braian Angola) and shot a solid 39 percent from the field with only 12 turnovers.
Meanwhile, the Gators had an off-night on both ends of the floor and showed very little energy at points during the second half. Jalen Hudson (16 points) led the way for Michael White’s team, but he shot just 5-of-11, including 2-of-6 from three. KeVaughn Allen added 15 points and freshman Deaundrae Ballard scored eight points off the bench, while point guard Chris Chiozza had just three points and four assists.
Florida, who suffered their second loss of the season, will play two more games this week as they host Loyola-Chicago before traveling to Newark to play a neutral game against Cincinnati.
The Seminoles (7-0) proved themselves as a potential top 25 team. They will face Loyola (MD) later this week.
Florida State made a national statement
The Seminoles came into Monday night’s rivalry game with an undefeated record, but had no quality wins to show for. Their best victory of the season came against a George Washington team that is expected to finish in the middle of the pack in an Atlantic 10 Conference that is headed for a down year.
But FSU made themselves known to the nation by winning their fourth straight game in this rivalry and beating a top-five team on the road.
Hamilton’s squad used their length and athleticism defensively to fluster Florida. They challenged every shot, had more size at nearly every position and used a 3/4 press to limit the Gators’ shot clock in their half-court offense.
The Noles have a number of versatile perimeter defenders, including Mann, Angola and Trent Forrest. They also have tough big men on the interior, which limited the Gators’ chances to attack the basket.
Offensively, the Seminoles don’t exactly have a go-to scorer, but Mann was aggressive attacking the basket, Walker was efficient and effective and the Noles kept the Gators out of transition by slowing the pace down.
It was a complete performance from FSU.
Florida’s flaw was front-and-center
The Gators looked like a top-five team in the PK80, when they played Duke wire-to-wire and dropped a combined 219 points in wins over Gonzaga and Stanford.
On Tuesday night though, the Gators looked anything but.
That doesn’t mean they still aren’t a top 10 squad, the best team in the SEC and a Final Four contender (there’s a long way to go until March), however, White’s team showed an obvious flaw versus FSU.
When the Gators aren’t hitting shots, they can be beaten. Against the Noles, they hit just 36 percent of their shots from the field and made just 24 percent of their threes (six total). That frustrated the Gators as they turned the ball over 17 times and showed disengagement at times in the second frame.
Florida State’s defense certainly had something to do with Florida’s struggles, but it was an off-night, to say the least, for the Gators.
And that’s who they are. They are going to take quick shots that look poor when they aren’t making them. They are going to turn the ball over against longer more athletic defenders, especially when a potential All-ACC defender in Mann is guarding Chiozza.
But when the Gators are on, they are one of the most dangerous teams in the nation. That’s what makes them scary even after this loss.
Noles pounded Florida on the glass
The Seminoles are longer and taller than UF. And they used that to their advantage on Monday night.
FSU out-rebounded Florida by 17 (!), including 11 offensive boards, and they were the better team in both points in the paint and second-chance points.
While Cofer (10 points and 12 rebounds) was their only big man with solid production on the box score, the size they have on the wing makes up for their lack of skill up front. Mann, Forrest and Angola combined to grab 19 rebounds.
The Gators need to get veteran big man John Egbunu back from injury before they are able to reach their full potential. They have zero interior threat and are lacking in the rebounding department.