The score makes it sound like the game was never close, but the Gators stumbled through the first half of the game before a late run helped them take a 34-24 lead to halftime. The duo found its shooting stroke and hit 11 of Florida’s 13 3-pointers on the night, a season high for team 3-pointers.
It was especially encouraging for Finney-Smith. After suffering a hairline fracture in his left hand minutes into the season opener, the junior has been dealing with pain in his hand ever since. It impacted him in almost every facet of the game. When he went up for a rebound, he couldn’t grab the ball with his left hand, forcing him to try rebounding with one hand. It also hurt his shooting, causing pain in his left hand every time he tried to get his shooting hand under the ball.
With every day, the pain has decreased some. It’s finally getting to the point where he isn’t thinking about it and can play normally.
It showed on Sunday afternoon, as Finney-Smith posted a career-high 25 points on 5-7 shooting from behind the 3-point line with six rebounds.
“I’m feeling really good right now,” Finney-Smith said. “I finished with my left (hand) today, and I think that was my first time finishing with my left hand since the injury. I’m getting right.”
The Gators have three games between now and January 3, and the hope is that the rest will help with any of the pain Finney-Smith still feels.
“For him, every day that goes by, it gets a little better,” Florida coach Billy Donovan said. “He can feel a difference. He’s at least moving to a point of being healthier each day.”
As if the bounce back game for Finney-Smith wasn’t enough to help Florida, Frazier got it going early and didn’t stop. He scored 22 points and pulled down six rebounds while shooting 6-11 from behind the 3-point line. He had success getting into the paint and made some plays on fast breaks, including a thunderous dunk late in the game.
“We moved the ball, and shots went in,” Frazier said with a smile. “Coach challenged us at halftime to come out with more passion and fire, and play our style.”
When shots were falling for both players, it opened up the floor and the offense worked with ease.
“It just makes it tougher on them when Frazier’s hitting shots, I’m hitting shots,” Finney-Smith said. “They can’t help off (Frazier) much and they can’t help off me much because it gives up driving lanes.”