In solid, if not spectacular, wins over Albany and Pittsburgh last week Florida sophomore sharpshooter Michael Frazier II struggled with his shooting. The SEC’s best perimeter shooter, Frazier shot 4-for-15 from the field and 3-for-13 from beyond the arc. When he’s on the Gators enjoy better spacing offensively, as teams are forced to account for his outside shooting.
Frazier regained his touch Thursday night in Memphis, making five three-pointers to help Florida eliminate No. 4 UCLA 79-68. Now the school record-holder for made three-pointers in a season, Frazier scored a game-high 19 points on 7-for-13 shooting from the field. As a team Florida shot 50% from the field, and unselfish play on the offensive end of the floor resulted in 22 of their 29 made field goals being assisted.
And their best distributor was none other than freshman Kasey Hill, who accounted for ten assists (just two turnovers) to go along with six points and six rebounds off the bench. With Scottie Wilbekin finishing the game with 13 points and three assists, Florida’s point guard tandem combined for 19 points, 13 assists and two turnovers.
Wilbekin, the SEC Player of the Year, and Frazier would be key figures in a 10-0 Florida run that increased their lead from one (56-55) to 11 (66-55) with 5:34 remaining. Wilbekin played a part in eight of those points, scoring six himself and assisting on a Frazier jumper. The senior point guard has been lauded for his ability to take control of games, and that was once again the case despite his starting the game 2-for-10 from the field.
The bench contributed 23 points, with Dorian Finney-Smith (ten points, six rebounds and four assists) and Chris Walker (seven points, three rebounds) helping Florida navigate the second-half foul trouble incurred by Patric Young and Casey Prather. With Saturday’s opponent, No. 11 Dayton, able to use as many as 12 players those bench contributions will be important.
But most important for Florida on Thursday was Michael Frazier II getting back on track, and that occurred against UCLA. When Frazier’s on the Gators are a far tougher team to defend, and that continues to be the case Florida can win three more games and take home the program’s third national title.