One Man Gang
It took about 30 seconds before Florida had a problem on its hands. Al Horford suffered a hip pointer that severely impacted his game. With Florida struggling from the perimeter and Adrian Moss and Chris Richard relatively ineffective, Noah almost single-handedly gave the Gators an eight-point halftime advantage. Midway through the game, Joakim had 18 points and so did his teammates. He was 3-6 from the field; his teammates were 7-18. Noah used his remarkable speed to race past Georgia's post-defenders creating either easy baskets or trips to the foul line. At the half Noah had already shot 13 free throws … all the other players on the two teams combined had shot just eight.
Not only did Noah dominate in terms of the numbers he put on the board, but he had another huge impact that wasn't as obvious. Early in the game, Georgia sophomore forward Younes Irdissi got off to a great start. A guy who averaged 6.1 points a game, Irdissi scored six of Georgia's first eight.
Then he started to guard Joakim Noah. Foul, foul, foul … Irdissi was out of the game and Georgia's best front court threat against Florida was out of the picture. When the game was over, Georgia four big men --- Irdissi, Dave Bliss, Steve Newton and Rashaad Singleton --- had combined for 22 points, 15 fewer than Noah scored on his own.
The second half was more of the same as Noah poured in another 19, reached double-figures on the glass and led the Gators to an almost must-win heading into the regular season finale.
What Makes it the Best
Without a win last night, Florida was staring at a possible five-game losing streak heading into the SEC Tournament. They were looking at the possibility of going form a three seed to an eight in the span of three weeks. Florida's advantage over Georgia is in the front court. As far as I'm concerned, Georgia's top five perimeter players are better than Florida's. Last night they outscored the Gators 40-29. That means the game had to be won by Florida's bigs and it was up to Joakim to do it alone.
No, it wasn't an NCAA Tournament game and it wasn't a game with a conference title on the line. But it was a game Florida had to have that ended up being thrust largely on one set of shoulders. Add to it you're talking about a guy who had a tooth knocked out just a week ago and for added pressure was playing before his beloved grandfather for the first time. It was really something else.
I don't doubt for a minute many of you will have other games that come to mind and that should spur some great debate. All I ask is that you give it a day. Tomorrow, I'll look at some other great individual performances that I've seen.
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