Offensive struggles lead to 2nd straight loss for Tigers
By Michael Losch
Missouri was the latest victim of the Florida Gators in a 68-58 loss in Gainesville on Tuesday night.
An 8-0 Florida run in the second half was all the No. 3 Gators needed to win their 14th consecutive game and remain undefeated in Southeastern Conference play. Jabari Brown led the Tigers once again scoring 15 points while Jordan Clarkson added 14 of his own. Brown’s streak of scoring 22 or more points ended after six games, the last time being a 70-68 win at Auburn on January 11.
Both teams got off to a slow start offensively in the first half. Missouri found success by establishing it’s long-range shooting, making half of the eight 3-pointers they attempted. Florida took a different approach and dominated inside, scoring all but one of its first half field goals around the paint. Florida made just one 3-pointer on 11 attempts.
Neither team had much of an advantage in the half as the largest lead belonged to the Tigers at 5. Near the end of the half Florida’s Chris Walker, playing in his first college game, received an alley oop pass to tie the game at 25. Missouri responded immediately as Jabari Brown drove down the court and made a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give Missouri the lead, 28-25.
While Missouri found little success on offense in the second half, things went much differently for Florida. Whether it was attacking the basket and getting to the free-throw line or finding the open man for a 3-pointer, Florida found a way to score. The Gators were 5-9 behind the 3-point line and made 24 of their 33 free throws. Missouri only shot 12 free throws the entire game.
“Our game plan was good and we were executing. Then they got going,” Missouri coach Frank Haith said. “They got it in the paint, they got to the free throw line and got aggressive there in the second half, and that was the difference in the game.”
Scottie Wilbekin and Michael Frazier II led the offensive production for Florida. Wilbekin scored a career-high 19 points while Frazier hit four of Florida’s second half 3-pointers, finishing with 14 points.
Frazier’s teammates were more than happy with his performance.
“Him giving up an open 3 is like a turnover because it’s probably one of the best shots we can get as a team,” center Patric Young said.
Wilbekin also noted Frazier’s ability to shoot the ball.
“He’s one of a kind,” Wilbekin said. “There’s not too many shooters out there that’s better than Frazier.”
The Tigers would try to respond to the likes of Frazier, but went on a cold stretch and failed to score for more than four minutes and it proved to be a fatal blow. Florida went on a 16-3 run to lead 59-48 with 3:21 left to play and did not look back.
Missouri faced similar issues from their last trip to Gainesville. Struggling find ways to score, the Tigers only scored six more points than the 83-52 loss to Florida last year. It is the lowest scoring game for Missouri this year.
The Gators are 20-2 and 9-0 in the SEC. Florida coach Billy Donovan achieved his 16th straight 20-win season, trailing only Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim. That is good company considering both coaches have the most wins in Division 1 history.
Missouri (16-6, 4-5 SEC) dropped its second straight game, both coming from ranked opponents after a loss to No. 11 Kentucky. Missouri lost back-to-back regular season games for the first time since losing to Kansas State and Kansas in 2012.
The Tigers will be looking to get back in the win column with a trip to Ole Miss on Saturday.