By: Eric Graves
Saturday’s Missouri vs. Florida matchup had a lot of headlines. For Missouri, it was their last game of the 2015-2016 season due to a postseason ban set upon them by the NCAA for recruiting rule violations made in the past. It was Mizzou forward Ryan Rosburg’s last chance to get a win at the university he has called home for the past four years. Also, the Florida Gators had their last regular season chance to bolster their case for an NCAA Tournament bid.
Florida emerged the victor with an 82-72 final score. Florida led throughout and controlled most of the game with a double-digit lead. The key to Florida’s success in the win was their dominant defense in the first 10 minutes of the game. They were able to hold Mizzou to just nine points in the first 10 minutes on 3-of-14 shooting from the field. However, with 4:30 remaining in the second half, trailing 75-59, the Tigers showed flashes of a future team that could score the basketball and make a run when they’re down. From 4:30 to 1:03, the Tigers went on an 11-2 run to cut the Gator lead to just 77-70. That run was created largely in part of the young core of Missouri – Kevin Puryear, Namon Wright, and Terrence Phillips – who accounted for nine points in the 11-2 run for the Tigers. But in the final minute of the game the Gators went 5-of-6 at the free throw line to ensure the win.
Florida’s Dorian Finney-Smith led all scorers with 20 points and also had a team high 7 seven boards for the Gators. Mizzou saw Wright excel with 19 points on 8-of-15 shooting and Phillips also thrived with 10 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists.
In the press conference following the game, Coach Kim Anderson described his feeling on the play of Phillips. “I love him because he plays with so much heart,” Anderson said.
Despite the loss, Mizzou did compete well after their slow start, outscoring Florida 63-58 in the final 30 minutes of the game. This game showed two different Mizzou teams, the one in the first 10 minutes is the team Mizzou has been all year, lower-tier in the SEC. The team Mizzou was in the second half was a squad that can compete with the middle-tier of the SEC, which is not great but it’s better than what was done all season.
With this win, Florida gets back on track heading into the SEC Tournament after dropping four straight. Florida is sitting at 18-13, 9-9 in conference play; the NCAA Tournament is looking uncertain for them but they can make their case in the SEC Tournament, which begins March 10 for them against Arkansas. Mizzou’s basketball season is over because of the aforementioned postseason ban, but they do have some positives to look at going forward with a strong core of talented freshmen.
Photo credit: The Maneater