When Laurence Bowers sprained his MCL knee against Alabama on January 8th, the initial reports were that he’d be back in time for their showdown with Florida this past Saturday. Even with Bowers in the fold the Gators figured to give Missouri, and Phil Pressey all they could handle. Add in the fact that the game was in Gainesville and the odds were not in Mizzou’s favor. Of course Laurence’s knee didn’t allow him to play on Saturday afternoon and that set up the expectation that a very balanced, talented white-hot Florida team would win without much trouble.
Win without trouble is exactly what the Gators did. They blew the Tigers out of the water scoring more than 40 points in each half and cruising to an 83-52 victory. As a result of the lopsided loss, Missouri has slipped to #22 in the polls, Pressey has been a shell of the player he was with Bowers’ in the lineup with him and there are serious concerns surrounding the team. Not only will Bowers miss a couple more games, but now their coach Frank Haith is facing unethical conduct charges stemming from his time at the University of Miami.
This is the point where I would normally break down the game but it was a beatdown of such extreme proportions that little recap is necessary. The 31 point deficit doesn’t even do things justice.
Senior guard Keion Bell had the best afternoon for the Tigers with 14 points on 5-6 shooting. Jabari Brown actually led the team in scoring with 16 but needed to hoist 18 shots, 11 of them from beyond the arc, to get there. Pressey was abysmal scoring two points on 1-7 from the floor while turning the ball over ten times. He did have six assists and two steals in the game but it wasn’t nearly enough to offset the turnovers. As a team they shot just 32.7% (16-49), were 6-24 from three, turned the ball over 21 times and were outworked on the glass by a margin of 30-19. It’s hard, if not impossible, to win a game racking up that kind of resume.
Florida was led by Erik Murphy‘s 15 points but it was Scottie Wilbekin that was the story on Saturday. In addition to his defensive work against Pressey, he turned in a 13 point, ten assist double-double. He also added three steals and three rebounds in 33 minutes. True to form, the Gators had two other players in double digits. Kenny Boynton had 14 and Will Yeguete matched Wilbekin’s 13 while coming off the bench. Mike Rosario just missed the cut with nine points. Junior Patric Young also had nine points to go with his game high eight rebounds and three blocks.
#10 Florida (14-2, 4-0) has won each of its first four conference games by at least 20 points and their average margin of victory in the SEC is 26.75 right now. That very well could increase as they face the Georgia Bulldogs (7-10, 1-3) on Wednesday. While the Gators will be on the road, they’ve already pummeled the Bulldogs once this season winning at home 77-44 on January 9th.
The #22 Missouri Tigers (13-4, 2-2) are reeling and will again be without Bowers tonight. However, they do play at home and they get to take on Frank Martin’s South Carolina Gamecocks (11-6, 1-3). Beyond tonight’s game the Tigers have a chance to rack up some conference win with games against Vanderbilt, LSU, and Auburn. Missouri needs Laurence Bowers back but they should be able to navigate this stretch of four games without him if it comes to that. Only the game against LSU is on the road.