It’s only appropriate that the third triple-double in Florida basketball history and the first since Nick Calathes did the trick against Georgia in 2009 was a buddy connection. Chris Chiozza needed one more assist to etch his name permanently in the Florida record book and best friend since their first day on campus three years ago Devin Robinson wanted the honor.
“I said I want to make this shot for you and get you your first triple-double,” Robinson said his 3-pointer with 31 seconds to go sealed the deal for Chiozza, who put up 12 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists to help lead 23rd-ranked Florida (17-5, 7-2 SEC) to a 93-54 win over Missouri (5-16, 0-9 SEC) Thursday night at the O-Dome before a crowd of 10,153.
“That was big time,” Robinson said. The 3-pointer was Robinson’s first of the night after 4 straight misses. He wasn’t about to miss on his final launch. “That’s my man right there, my brother since we got here. It was cool for me to be the one to knock down the shot for him to get his first triple-double. I feel like I got a triple double.”
Chiozza’s big night was the highlight of a third straight win by the Gators, who have stomped the life out of LSU, Oklahoma and Missouri in their best stretch of games this season. Ever since Florida dropped two straight to South Carolina on the road and Vanderbilt at home, the Gators have put together what is easily their best stretch of basketball. Against LSU (106-71 win), the Gators played their best offensive game of the season. They turned in their best defensive effort in the win over Oklahoma (84-52). Thursday night UF played high octane offense, scoring on its first nine possessions and choke-hold defense that strangled the life out of a hapless Missouri team that has lost 31 straight road games including 28 straight in SEC play.
To put what happened in perspective, the Gators shot 45.5% from the field overall and 11-28 (39.3%) from the 3-point line, which are very good offensive numbers. The Gators outscored Missouri 36-16 in the paint with 20 points scored off 13 Mizzou turnovers. Down at the other end of the floor, the Gators held Mizzou to 19-63 shooting (30.2% overall). The Gators played equally well in a 2-3 zone as they did straight man-to-man, forcing the Tigers way out of their comfort zone. There were few points to be had in the paint and only a late flurry of 3-pointers well after the game had been decided got the final score as close as 39 points.
“I don’t know if we had a dozen bad defensive possessions,” said Florida coach Mike White. “We got off to a good start defensively and obviously that carried over for 40 minutes.”
The crowd was still arriving when the Gators put nine straight scoring possessions together to open the game with an 18-3 lead and it was 30-6 at the midway point. It wasn’t just about hitting shots, the Florida defense completely shut down Missouri’s offense. There were no uncontested shots for the Tigers and that only turned Florida’s effort into a feeding frenzy.
Missouri shot, Missouri missed and the Gators came roaring down the court looking for someone to put the ball in the basket.
“The defensive end is where it all starts,” Chiozza said. “That’s been the main focus in every practice.”
The defense was so good that the offense came easy. Of the 11 Gators who played, 10 scored. With Kasey Hill nursing a knee to the quad late in the second half, that turned all the point guard minutes to Chiozza, who had a career night rebounding because Missouri took so many deep shots which clanged off the rim and turned into long rebounds.
The points also came rather easily for the 6-0 junior from Memphis. He hit 4-8 of his shots including 2-4 from the 3-point line and 2-2 from the foul line, so it all came down to assists.
Chiozza knew exactly what he needed to complete his first triple-double since his high school days when he routinely hit double figures in points, rebounds and assists. But White was unaware until Chiozza reminded him.
“I first heard it from Chris,” White said. “I don’t know how much time was on the clock – seven eight or nine minutes – and he’s sitting by me [on the bench] and he said ‘Coach, you’ve got to get me back in. I’m going to get a triple-double.’ I said no you’re not. Come on. You don’t have enough rebounds. How many rebounds do you have and he said, ‘I’ve got maybe 7-8’ so I said good for you.”
White took note and let his junior point guard have his big night. Since the game was way out of hand already, the emphasis became getting Chiozza the necessary points, rebounds and assists.
Points nine and 10 came on a pair of free throws with 9:30 left in the game. The 10th rebound came just a few seconds earlier (9:57) and that left only the assists.
He got his ninth when he set up Eric Hester for a 3-ball with 2:18 left and that left only the shot by Robinson to put him over the top.
When the clock dipped below the 1-minute mark, Chiozza wasn’t sure he was going to get that last assist.
“I thought I wasn’t going to get it,” he said. “We had 30 seconds left. We were running down the court and D-Rob said ‘I’m going to hit it,’ so I threw it to him and he hit it.”
For Robinson, helping his good buddy by making the shot was a euphoric feeling.
“It was cool for me to be the one to knock down the shot for him to get his first triple-double,” Robinson said. “I feel like I got a triple double.”
GAME NOTES: Canyon Barry, who had only 2 points in the first half, led all scorers with 17 points. Barry was 5-5 from the foul line, extending his streak to 27 consecutive made shots from the charity stripe ... KeVaughn Allen scored 15 points, while Chiozza had 12 and Hill had 11 … Florida out-rebounded Missouri, 56-32, with Chiozza snagging 12 and Robinson collecting 11 … In his last two games, Chiozza has 14 assists and only 4 turnovers while Hill has 12 assists and 4 turnovers … Missouri’s loss was the 13th straight this season, tying the record for the longest losing streak in school history. Missouri lost 13 in a row two seasons ago, Kim Anderson’s first year on the job. Anderson is expected to be fired at the end of the season … In Florida’s three straight wins, the Gators have won by an average of 35.3 points.