Florida ran away from No. 11 Texas A&M on Tuesday night as the Gators secured an easy 83-66 SEC road win. The up-and-down Gators earned one of their best wins of the season while the Aggies are still reeling without three of its best players in the lineup.
Here are three takeaways from Florida’s quality road win.
1. FLORIDA’S OFFENSE HAS TO HIT PERIMETER SHOTS
Florida should have won Tuesday night’s game at Texas A&M strictly by virtue of the Aggies missing three important players (more on that below). While the Gators obviously came away with the win, it should also be noted that Florida completely dominated this game for almost the entire time.
Displaying more intensity on both ends, along with potent perimeter shooting, Florida looked like the team we thought they could be early in the season before a cold stretch sent them on a puzzling tailspin. Shooting 16-for-27 from three-point range, Florida had floor-spacing options all over the floor as they had balanced scoring.
Senior point guard Chris Chiozza (12 points, nine assists) carved up the young and experienced Texas A&M backcourt as he found shooters for open looks and cutters for easy lobs. Egor Koulechov (19 points) and Keith Stone (18 points) both shot the ball at a very high level as they seemed to be playing (and more importantly, shooting) with confidence.
We’ve seen what happens when Florida isn’t hitting shots from the perimeter in an ugly home loss to Florida State. But on this night, the Gators had it rolling from the perimeter and it opened up everything that Florida wanted to do on the offensive end. Florida needs to hit three-pointers at a solid clip to be the best version of themselves.
In wins this season, Florida is shooting 40.7 percent from three-point land. In losses, that number dips to 29.5 percent. If Florida is hitting shots, chances are, they are going to win.
2. TEXAS A&M BADLY NEEDS ITS FULL ROSTER
One of the reasons that Texas A&M finds itself 0-2 in the SEC is the depleted roster the Aggies are currently dealing with. Junior forward D.J. Hogg is finishing a three-game suspension for violating school policy while guards Duane Wilson and Admon Gilder are currently battling knee injuries.
Without those three key pieces, the Aggies got badly exposed against a talented Florida team. Facing a veteran Florida backcourt, Texas A&M’s backcourt of freshmen Jay Jay Chandler, J.J. Caldwell and Savion Flagg struggled as the trio couldn’t get consistent footing on offense while getting burned consistently on defense. Texas A&M entered Tuesday’s game allowing opponents to shot only 27.1 percent from three-point range on the season. Florida shot nearly 60 percent from distance in the win as they got whatever look they wanted.
Obviously, Texas A&M is a significantly better team when three of their four top scorers are on the floor. But the glaring lack of depth also showed that the Aggies are susceptible to getting beat if they ever have to deal with any sort of roster adversity.
Texas A&M had better hope that no injuries or foul problems hit their backcourt during an important game this season because they could be in major trouble if that happens.
3. FLORIDA HAS AN EARLY CHANCE TO MAKE A PUSH UP THE SEC STANDINGS
The SEC has been drunk at the start of 2018.
Ranked teams like Texas A&M and Tennessee now find themselves at 0-2 in the conference standings. Teams like Auburn are looking legitimate.
And Florida now has a chance to capitalize and gain some serious conference momentum after a 2-0 start.
Not only did Florida just pick off one of the SEC’s better teams on the road, but the upcoming schedule isn’t very daunting for Gators. Florida travels to Missouri before hosting Mississippi State and heading to Ole Miss over the next three games. Those are all winnable games for Mike White’s ballclub, meaning the Gators could be sitting pretty at 5-0 in the SEC while the rest of the league beats each other up.
In a potentially tight conference like this, that could mean the difference in winning a conference title. There’s still a long ways to go before we start deeply analyzing conference races. Unforeseen injuries will change things. Kentucky is going to have something to say in all of this as well. But Florida is sitting pretty right now and they have a chance to gain a lot of momentum in the SEC over the next few weeks. Can the Gators capitalize?