But Tuesday was different. Florida trailed at halftime for the first time since December 2 at Connecticut. It was the first time the Gators were challenged at home since hosting Kansas on December 10. The Gators responded down the stretch to secure a 68-58 win.
"This was really, really a hard game for us," Florida coach Billy Donovan said. "It was a struggle all the way through. I didn't think that we played very well in the first half. We were constantly on our heels because nothing was easy. Everything was a struggle. It was good to see our guys go through that struggle and find a way to win in the end."
The missed shots and frustration that built in the first half reached its peak on the final play before the Gators hit the locker room. Chris Walker finished his second dunk off a Kasey Hill alley oop with six seconds remaining in the first half, but Missouri sprinted down the court to get a desperation three-pointer from Jabari Brown as the buzzer sounded, sending the Tigers into the half with a 28-25 lead.
After the teams traded blows for the first 10 minutes of the second half, Jordan Clarkson hit a jumper to give the Tigers a 45-43 lead with 9:57 remaining. Florida allowed just three points over the next 6:46 of play, using a 15-3 run to put the game away.
"We know we're going to get every team's best shot, so we have to make sure we bring every game as well," Florida center Patric Young said. "We're the top team in the league right now. We don't want to be midway through the league and finish. We want to finish the whole thing at number one."
After sputtering to 25 points in the first half, the Gators scored 43 points in the second half to take control of the game. The halftime conversation was about playing assertive on offense against the Missouri zone. As Michael Frazier got hot from behind the three-point line and went 4-7 in the second half, the Tigers went away from the zone and Florida burned their man-to-man.
"We did a better job of moving the ball around," Scottie Wilbekin said. "We were playing with more confidence, moving them around and making them have to think."