Gators Take a HUGE step Towards the Big Dance

Last year, the Gator basketball team made its name with the NCAA selection committee with a win over Michigan State in Atlantic City. Saturday evening the Gators took a similar step in building its post-season resume with a 57-44 win over No. 6 Kansas State.

Granted the game was as ugly as the north end of a south bound rhinoceros, but that really doesn't matter. What matters is that the Gators got their second significant win away from home, and this time did it against a top 10 team that is picked to win the Big 12.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about the win is that it came despite the Gators failure to score in the first seven minutes of the contest. It came despite Florida trailing 20-8 with eight minutes to go in the opening half. Florida was able to get its act together enough to end the opening 20 minutes on a 12-3 run, but that still left Billy Donovan's team down 23-20 at intermission.

The second half was simply the best 20 minutes the Gators have played since that win over Michigan State. The Gators came out of the locker room playing much smarter offensively while maintaining its defensive intensity. The result was an 8-0 run to open the half and a 30-23 lead Florida never relinquished. Kansas State quickly got within two points (28-26) a little later was only down three (30-27) but never was able to pull even.

Florida held its opponent to fewer than 60 points for the seventh time in eight games, and as a result, Florida can feel much better about its NCAA resume. It also doesn't hurt that UCF remained undefeated with a win over Miami earlier in the day.

This Gator team still has a great deal of room for improvement. They beat the No. 6 team in the country despite getting minimal contributions from senior forward Chandler Parsons (7/4) and Alex Tyus (2/2). Florida got a strong effort from its backcourt and solid contributions off the bench from Erik Murphy (7/4), Will Yeguete (3/3) and Scottie Wilbekin (3 assists). The Gators have had far too few games in which four or five of the starters have had strong outings, but based on last season you have to believe those games are coming.

Florida is now 8-2 and has three relative gimmes coming up, starting with a 1:00 Monday afternoon game with Jacksonville. The Gators still have two significant pre-conference games with a 12/31 contest at Xavier and a 1/3 home game with Rhode Island. If the Gators can win out, they'll enter conference play on a high note competitively and probably with a national ranking.

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