For the seventh straight game, No. 1 Florida won a game by ten points or less.
On Tuesday night, it came at Vanderbilt’s Memorial Gymnasium, where the Commodores erased a double-figure deficit and came within a missed, game-tying three of forcing overtime against the nation’s best team, eventually losing 57-54.
Instead, Florida locked up at least a share of the SEC regular season title with their 20th consecutive win.
The Gators are now 12-2 in single-digit games this season, the two losses coming at Wisconsin and at UConn, their only two losses of the season. And while winning close games certainly isn’t a bad thing, it is a bit disconcerting that the Gators can’t seem to blow out the inferior competition in the SEC.
There is some explanation for that, however.
Florida is not an offensive powerhouse by any stretch of the imagination. They don’t really have a guy on that end of the floor that you have to game-plan around, and they don’t have enough shooting to keep teams from helping on drives and post touches. Basically, it comes down to them simply executing better and Scottie Wilbekin closing out games.
And it’s worked thus far, a fact made all the more impressive with four of their last five games coming on the road, which just so happened to be the single-most important game of the season for each of their opponents.
There’s something to be said for avoiding a letdown each and every night in league play.
There is some good news to pass along from Tuesday night, however. Dorian Finney-Smith’s slump appears to be over. He hit his first three since January 30th on Saturday at Ole Miss and followed that up with a 19-point, nine-rebound performance against Vandy, hitting 6-for-11 from the floor and 3-for-6 from three. He had been 1-for-23 in his last eight games from deep. It was his first double-digit scoring effort in seven games. He plays most of his minutes at the four for the Gators, and given how much they like to use ball-screens, him being a threat in pick-and-pop actions makes Florida that much more dangerous offensively.
His timing couldn’t have been better for a breakout performance, either. The only other Gator to reach double-figures was Patric Young, who finished with 12 points but scored ten of them early in the first half.